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

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


At long last, my motorbike has been unpacked, refilled with oil and all its other vital liquids, prodded and poked by Dutch traffic authorities and approved to be ridden here. The only change it needed was a new headlight because we ride on the wrong side of the road here.
After nearly five months in a crate, during which time the weather has been overall (apart from August, which was one long rain shower) surprisingly good, it finally hit the road today on the day the Dutch weather service warned most of the country to batten down the hatches and brace for a Cyclone Larry type lashing.
The day started inauspiciously as I missed my train from Voorburg to Zoetermeer where the bike was. Once I finally caught a train, I called a taxi only to be greeted by my first snotty Dutch person of the day.
Me: Can I have a taxi at Zoetermeer East station?
Snotty Dutch Woman: I suppose so, but you'll have to wait (in the horizontal rain) for at least 20 minutes.
Me: Shit.
SDW: Don't blame me, it's the time of day. (It was 9.15 a.m.). Peak period, innit.
Me: I need to get to Platinaweg, do you think I could walk that in 20 minutes?
SDW: Why don't you. Click, as she hangs up on me.
Off I trudge to the Harley garage, walking tilted forward to prevent being blown off my feet.
I fear this posting may sound just a touch anti-Dutch, so let's be clear here and now that the garage staff were all bend-over-backwards helpful and friendly and appeared to undercharge me by about 100 euros for all the stuff they did.
After lashing on my helmet, boots and rain gear, and just barely remembering which way around to sit on the thing, I steered the bike into the storm-tossed traffic (did I mention it was windy?)
The gale was at my back heading to the vehicle checking station in beautiful Waddinxveen, a town surrounded by waterlogged (did I mention it was raining?) fields of rotting maize stubble.
I got there ok, managed to elbow my way to the front of a small queue and filled out a couple of forms before the friendly but intransigent woman behind the bulletproof glass screen told me I didn't have the right papers. I told here I'd called her yesterday and asked what to bring and had brought exactly what I'd been told. Turns out that the letter from Australian vehicle registration authorities confirming that I'd cancelled my rego in Sydney was not enought to convince here that the bike had been registered in Sydney, nor was the registration plate still attached to the bike.
She needed more information. I gave it to her in the form of something called a certificate of compliance. I don't know what it's for, but it had all the details she needed.
All good, but then her boss came and started quizzing me as to how I'd got my hands on a Dutch certificate of compliance in Australia. I told him I'd called somebody in Holland from Sydney and asked for one. Apparently placated, they told me to go stand outside and wait by the door to Bay 1 for the test (I did mention it was a bit wet and windy, didn't I?).
I waited and waited and looked longingly through the glass door at the testers sitting inside chatting and drinking coffee and doing very little else. For an hour.
When I finally got in, I had exactly the same problem with papers I'd already been through with the friendly intransigent woman. I ended up having to ride home - wind/rain - to pick up the contract of sale the friendly intransigent woman had assured me a day earlier I would not need. I got back and after the (friendly and helpful) tester had fixed his malfunctioning computer he walked around my bike once, declared it fine and signed off on everything.
Back inside, FIW relieved me of 100 euros for services rendered, gave me a couple of bits of paper and told me to take them to the customs people at the next window along. They should be back any time now, they're just having lunch she said, as I longed for my breakfast.
I shuffled three steps sideways to a window with a closed venetian blind and a sign saying we open at 12.45. It was 12.50 and I could see a woman inside eating a cheese sandwich and reading the newspaper, languidly flicking back and forth through the pages. Ignoring me. Two other men then walked in, joked that they must be popular because people were queuing up to see them. I wonder how often they've cracked this gag. They went into their little hutch, took another few minutes chatting about the type of cheese they had on their sandwiches today and then one of them finally deigned to be rude to my face rather then by ommission.
I gave him the bundle of papers I'd brought and picked up and been issued with throughout the morning and he said, where's the forms?
What forms?
These ones, he said, reaching under his desk. Fill them in and come back. You need to calculate the resale value, calculate 20.7 (honestly) percent depreciation (or something like that) and include your inside leg measurement. If you need any help, let me know.
I need help.
Just fill in what you can and we'll take it from there.
Reading this back, the man sounds almost civil. He wasn't.
In just 10 more minutes I'd done it all, he'd done the maths and I was on my way, hunching over and clinging to the handlebars to prevent being blown off.
This evening, I shoehorned the bike into a storage unit round the corner from here where it will no doubt stay for the rest of the winter. Unless I decide to take it out tomorrow to tour the flooding and storm damage... Posted by Picasa


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