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, December 18, 2006


Irmie saw it first this morning - a thin white crust of ice on the cars outside. I knew there was no science backing up those global warming doomsayers. It was all very exciting. Our first frosty morning. Julia was so interested she ran outside to check the car in her pyjamas and bare feet. Then on our way to school Julia loved watching her breath billow out in a tiny cloud. "It's going to be like this all winter," she said. She doesn't appear to believe in climate change either.

I have a new way of getting Julia to school. Instead of her sitting on the back of my bike, she now always rides her own and wears her school backpack - a freebie from the Winter Olympics which has a carrying handle on top as well as the two shoulder straps. I ride next to her and pull her along using the backpack's handle. We haven't collided with one another ... yet.

After dropping the kids off, I cycled to the Peace Palace for a hearing at the International Court of Justice. Arguments between Uruguay and Argentina on the legality of Uruguay building paper mills on the river that separates the countries.

It was one of those crisp mornings that make cycling to work (even a jawdroppingly boring border dispute) is a genuine pleasure. I cut through the oldest part of town, along a little canal and through a narrow street of swanky shops and art galleries close to Noordeinde Palace. There are so many beautiful buildings you don't know which one to look at. Probably you should walk it so you have more time to stop and look. The Hague is understated compared to Amsterdam, where the 17th century canal houses sometimes seem to so want to be loved that they bend over backwards, literally, to please tourists. The canal houses here stand up straighter and look a little younger but are beautiful all the same and there are lots of amazing art deco shop fronts.

The Peace Palace itself is kind of gaudy in a Baroque way but imposing all the same and the details inside are amazing - beautifully painted paneled ceilings, carved everything, even the door handles are mini works of art. These days they even have Internet for the media - in the late '90s you had to run out to find the single pay phone to file before Reuters or AFP, which lent a frisson of excitement to even the most tedious four-hour legalese arguments.
The illustration above is taken from the Carnegie Institute Web site or the Peace Palace Library's site. I'm not sure which is which. Anyway, it's their copyright. I wouldn't want to pinch pix from an institution so richly endowed with lawyers.


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