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

Monday, August 21, 2006

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.


Blogger Hong Kong Merretts said...

Do they make wind-down windows anymore? Do you at least have aircon? Boyd's been wanting to send Irmie an article for some time about the fuel efficiency of cars that drive with their windows down. It appears that the fuel efficiency is affected to such a degree by your windows being down that you're better off winding them up (manually?) and putting the aircon on full-bore. The ice-caps will love you for it. Becky x PS. Good choice of car, wind-down windows notwithstanding. We've just bought one too for our growing family (Sheila had her baby, James, in mid-July).

9:42 PM  

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