corders in the hague

It's like having the Corders round for dinner - except the kids don't smash stuff and Mike doesn't drink all your booze. And when you're bored you can get rid of us with a mouse click rather than having to start tidying up the house.

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Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Sunday, August 27, 2006

2 august Tabias in the Ardeche

Esther and Julia and Irmie went to visit Grandma in the Ardeche in France. This is her house which was sold just after we left. Luckily Liz will move into a similar house just around the corner and maybe build a pool. We had a lovely time and Liz spoilt all three of us.
We met Mike's brothers with their families and everyone got on really well. Posted by Picasa


Oma and Opa came too which was very nice because the last 4 years they missed my bithday as we were living in Australia.
They gave me these special bags to go on the back of my bike. I love them. Posted by Picasa

Esther's birthday cake

Esther turned 8 (28-7-98) while we had a weekend away in Winterswijk, near the German border. Posted by Picasa

Mill on the Vliet

I was out cycling yesterday evening and came across this bucolic scene. The pictures's taken with my phone so not so great quality, but under the mill, which is on the Vliet canal midway between The Hague and Leiden, is a blanket of mist and a flock of sheep. All very Dutch. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 26, 2006

New House

Hopefully, fingers crossed, (nothing's signed yet but we have a verbal agreement on price and date we can move in) this is our new house! It's a 1930s terrace in Voorburg, a historic village on the edge of Den Haag most famous as the former home of Constantijn Huygens, a Dutch Golden Age thinker who is famous for thinking a lot about the universe back in the good old days when a man with a pointy beard and ruff could still make a decent living thinking about the universe. His house, slightly more spectacular and historic looking than ours, is in a manicured park within coughing distance of the main motorway and rail line into The Hague. Our house (hopefully, fingers crossed etc.) is set on a leafy street next to a park and walking distance to the heart of the village. We now just have to find a bank willing to lend us a mountain of cash and then we can finally be reacquainted - in mid-October - with our belongings which are still in storage in Rotterdam. One we've signed and paid etc, we'll post a bunch more pictures and then pictures of us ripping out walls and installing a new kitchen - or possibly more accurately - us handing over more cash to builders to rip out a wall and put in a new kitchen.
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This is me with a kitten. I found it on Aloys' farm in Mill where we went on holiday. There were six little kittens and a mummy cat on the farm. My name is Juliaaaaaaa. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 21, 2006

Culinary Avenue

The canal we're living on at the moment is slightly grandiosely called by the local council a "culinary avenue." What this means is that there are a couple of bars and a few restaurants along the water's edge and the place has been generally done up a bit - new lights etc. But for those of us at the Zuidwal end of the canal the gentrification has not yet arrived.
Here's a letter from our neighbor to the local rag, translated with only minor embellishments) from the original Dutch by me:

"I get more and more pissed off when I read about the Culinary Avenue. I live on the bit of canal after the Bierkade on the Zuidwal. This part of the canal has always been the unwanted bastard child of the canal. On this section of the canal the problem of traffic, (dope-selling) coffee shops and whore visitors are only getting worse. Other parts of the canal have been renovated - and how! New parking places, beautiful lamps and pretty terraces. Sadly I have to say that on my part of the canal things are only getting worse." etc etc. Ada van Vliet, Den Haag.

General news

So this is my first real post. It's simple aim is to avoid having to write a whole bunch of e-mails to addresses that are still locked in our container of belongings somewhere deep in the bowels of Rotterdam port - along with my motorcycle, our TV, beds, cooking stuff, books and most of our clothes.
I'm sure Irmie, Esther and Julia will start blogging soon so I'll just give my impressions of the Hague story so far.
One thing before I start: Anything that sounds too good or bad to be true may well be either a gross exaggeration or a flagrant bit of underreporting, or just wrong. My apologies in advance for that and my spelling.
We've been here for nearly three months already and have sat through the best and worst a Dutch summer can throw at you.
July was one long heatwave, shattering 300-year-old records for most sun, least clouds and longest traffic jams heading to the country's gray, oil-streaked North Sea beaches. When we first took Esther and Julia to see Holland's glorious coastline (the only one I can think of that you have to cycle uphill to get to) she said: "I'm not swimming in that, it's brown.
However, the sweltering July quickly made its excuses and left to be replaced with a more traditional Dutch summer involving driving rain, high winds and gray skies you can reach up and touch. A firework festival in the Hague seaside suburb of Scheveningen was cancelled at the last minute last week because a thunderstorm and torrential downpour caused sewers all along the seafront to explode. "There were turds everywhere," a local police spokesman said.
We're still living in our beautiful old rented canalside house while hunting for somewhere to buy. It's a long process of drawing up a list of things we want in our new house and suburbs we want to live in and then gradually crossing off stuff in an attempt to get a house we can actually afford to live in. First to go was the garage - you need to win the lottery to afford one of those - next was access to the back garden via a lane you can get your bikes/motorbikes through. Next up is Irmie's demand for the garden to be on the southwest to take full advantage of the three weeks of sunshine we get each year.
In the absence of an opportunity to put ourselves permanently in debt up to our eyeballs, we've been spending like drunken sailors, and when I say "we," I mean "I."
We are the proud owners of a low mileage Peugeot 307 stationwagon. Room for the kids and a cycle rack on the back. Esther and Julia like it because it's blue but object strongly to having to manually wind their windows up and down.
Having the car is great apart from trying to find a parking space late at night when folks visiting the brothels behind our place park in our street. One parent goes inside with Esther and Julia while the other drives up and down the canalside waiting to see a man walking back to his car from the red light district. You can spot them a mile off - looking furtive while adjusting their crotches. Their cars range from beat-up Opels to Porsches. Child seats are a regular feature.
Despite the car, most of our travel is done on bikes - Esther and Julia ride to school and I get to all my press conferences etc on the bike. It's good exercise, but tends to leave me either sweaty or drenched by rain. The first time I went to one of the prime minister's press conferences it was raining so hard I looked like I'd cycled through the North Sea to get there. He was polite enough not to mention my unusually (even by my standards) bedraggled appearance.
Apart from the car our major investments have been a washing machine and espresso machine (that's two separate machines).
The espresso machine is essential although Irmie is of the opinion that it was a little pricey - it did cost more than the first car I ever owned. Coffee here is truly awful and this machine deals with the espresso craving I developed during the Winter Olympics in Turin.
I also have splurged a whopping 50 euros on a second (or third, or maybe fourth) hand racing bike. I go out a few evenings each week in a vain attempt to get fit. Cycling here is of course made considerably easier than it ever was in Australia by the total absence of hills or any other topographical features.
I'm about done, I was planning to gripe about the way the Dutch serve beer, but I'll save that for another time.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Esther's 8th

Esther and Julia on Esther's eighth birthday in Winterswijk. Posted by Picasa


This is the girls and a bunch of friends they made in Winterswijk. We were staying in a friend's house and these kittens lived in a farm nearby and wandered around the place. Esther and Julia loved playing with them. Posted by Picasa

Dutch stereotype

Without wanting in any way to reinforce stereotypes about the Netherlands, this is us at - you guessed it - a windmill. This one is close to Winterswijk and was used for grinding flour. Others dotted across the country are used to pump water out of paddocks to the Dutch keep their feet dry. Posted by Picasa

Dutch-German border crossing

This is us on a long weekend in Winterswijk, a small town close to the Dutch border with Germany. Esther is standing with one foot in the Netherlands and the other in Germany.
You will clearly be able to see from the picture that Esther turned eight two days earlier. Posted by Picasa


This picture is from mid-July when we all rode via bike tracks through the sand dunes from The Hague to Katwijk. Esther and Julia took turns on the back of my bike. July broke 300-year-old Dutch records for hours of sunshine and high temperatures but since the beginning of August the country has reverted to its more traditional pattern of rainy, cool and windy summers. Posted by Picasa

This is also the first day of school, which is a while ago now but I'm trying to play catchup on this new blog. Again, no bike helmets. This is how Julia gets to school some days. Other days she rides her bike. Posted by Picasa

Here's Esther and her bike outside our front door. This picture was taken on the first day of school. A few Dutch things to note for our Australian friends: No school uniform, no bicycle helmet (they're not obligatory here in the land of a thousand bike tracks) and Esther riding to her school in Voorburg six kilometers away. This is why all Dutch people have great legs. Posted by Picasa

Zuidwal 7

This is Julia at the window of our living room in Zuidwal 7. Above that are the two windows of our main bedroom and the two tiny slits above that are the ankle-high windows of the attic/AP Hague bureau. We get into the house via a door that leads into a narrow hallway where Esther and Julia store their bikes and then steps leading up to the floor where Julia's standing. Posted by Picasa

This is the first post for our blog chronicling life in Den Haag/The Hague. It's midsummer and we're mopping up rain from our floors after leaving a couple of windows open in the latest thunder storm to hit the city in August.
We didn't move here for the weather.
I may stop for a while and go hunt out some pix to post. The lightning appears to be getting closer.
Esther and Julia are sitting on the floor playing with lego and Irmie is on the phone.