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, April 30, 2007

Queen's Day

Today is Queen’s Day, when the Dutch celebrate the birthday of former Queen Juliana, mother of present Queen Beatrix.
For reasons that have always eluded me the day is marked by everybody clearing out their attics of junk, piling it up on a blanket outside their home or in a shopping street and hawking it to passers-by.
Effectively it’s a nationwide garage/jumble sale and we were on the wrong end of it this year.
After our move, we have vast piles of stuff we either don’t need (surfboards? You know my opinion of the North Sea), can’t use (golf clubs? Three words to describe Dutch golf courses: expensive and boring), or have no place to store (golf clubs and surfboards again) . And yet we ended up BUYING junk instead of selling it.

Here’s a quick tally of our new belongings:
Many books. Nobody in this family appears capable of walking past a pile of cut price books without picking up a fistful. The best book purchase, by a country mile, is a 1940s pamphlet I bought that is full of handy housekeeping advice for housewives. My favorite tip involved using lead to coat the inside of clothes to make them waterproof. The pamphlet wasn’t exactly a bargain. It was in its original dustcover which said 25 cents and I paid a euro for it. I guess maybe when you take into account inflation and the guilder-euro conversion I did alright…
From now on the stuff is ranked either useful or useless or annoying.
Useful: Hockey shoes for Esther, almost unused, and new canvas shoes for Irmie. Totally unused.
Useless: A pink fake leather punctured volleyball.
This brings me to two other points. First, our Queen’s Day started early when drunken youths stole Esther and Julia’s football and netball out of our front garden last night (getting smashed on the evening before Queen's Day is also a tradition of sorts) and second, the Dutch truly are a nation of traders and not always the most scrupulous ones.
Irmie tried to haggle on the ludicrously high 2 euro asking price for the pink fake leather volleyball but the woman flogging it refused to budge, swearing that A: It was leather, despite the fact that it said in large black letters on the ball that it was made of synthetic leather, and B: That it was in mint condition. She must have meant polo mint because when Irmie brought it home and I pumped it up it was flat again within 30 seconds.
Useless: About five kilograms (I know, I carried them home) of marbles of various sizes/colors. Esther and Julia disagree, of course.
Useless: Knee pads for Esther that offer the same degree of protection as wearing a pair of long trousers while rollerblading. Dingo would disagree with the Useless tag, she thought they were very tasty.
Annoying: A handheld electric organ bought by Julia. I give it a maximum of a week before Julia loses interest in music or the bossanova beat it plays nonstop causes me to bin it.
Annoying: Julia wandered off at one stage and came back with her hair painted orange. Question: Did Esther (A) Say, that looks nice and continue hunting for punctured balls? (B) Say, that looks stupid and continue hunting for punctured balls? or (C) Go and get her hair sprayed orange too? The one saving grace is that I think most of it came out in the bath tonight.
Stuff we didn’t buy included speed skates. Everybody was selling speed skates this year. I think the whole global warming message is sinking in here.
However, I think there’s another thing at play. My guess is that a lot of the junk being sold today (and especially the ubiquitous speed skates) were bought last year, tossed in a cupboard and sold again this year without being used. I suspect that if you put a tracking device in a pair of skates 10 years ago you’d find that they changed hands once a year on Queen’s Day after spending the previous 12 months in a cupboard. The nearest any of them got to ice in that time was the cube in the gin and tonic being held by the man selling them on Queen's Day.
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