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

Friday, June 06, 2008

Odd country, Austria. I’ve tried in vain to find a piece of litter on the streets of Leogang, the sleepy skiing village I’m based in while covering Russia at Euro 2008. Yet the same meticulous nation that won’t drop a lolly wrapper on the road also produces people who lock up and molest girls/daughters for decades. If there’s a link between these two phenomena, I can’t see it.
What I also can’t see at the moments are the Austrian Alps. I’m slap bang in the middle of them, but all I’ve had for my first two days here are brief glimpses of craggy peaks between rain clouds that have descended on pretty much the whole Euro 2008 tournament. A friend of mine is in Lausanne and he has the same weather.

What I also haven’t seen much of is the Russian team. A little bit disappointing as I’m trying hard to interview them and generally get to know them before their first match next Tuesday against notorious big tournament chokers Spain. Russia’s Dutch coach Guus Hiddink has already cancelled two morning training sessions and last night only answered one question before getting onto the team bus.
I have however seen lots of Russian journalists and discovered why their country is going through such an economic boom – to a man (and the Russian press pack is, to a man, a man) they smoke like chimneys and appear to drink only Red Bull. These people must never sleep. Having said that, many of them still manage to exude an air of Communist-era lethargy.
I’m staying at a, how can I put this? Quaint skiing chalet-style hotel. A few things it doesn’t have: WIFI access; credit card-style door keys (my back hurts from carrying my key and its baroque, heavy metal key ring up and down the two flights of stairs to my room); little bars of soap and bottles of shampoo. This is a disappointment to me, who didn’t pack any grooming products beyond a toothbrush. Instead, my shower has one of those dispensers of two-in-one body/hair wash stuck to the wall. The hotel also appears to have no guests apart from me and Sergey, the AP photographer I’m working with here.
What it does have is Alpine charm. The hostess, Frauleun Frick, is incredibly friendly and helpful. She boils a mean egg and speaks good English, which is more than most Austrians appear to be able to do. I note that I can’t speak German, so I can’t really be upset with them for that.
Its also got a bunny rabbit made of straw and sporting a bow tie on the stairs, a HUGE jigsaw of a generic Alpine scene that has been glued together, framed and hung on a wall, and a cheese plant that looks, from the size of the thing, to be a remnant of the 1970s. At breakfast this morning, it had a selection of four different fruit juices and no glasses to pour them into.
It also has that same almost sinister Austrian efficiency that I assume keeps the streets polished. Every day as I eat breakfast, somebody cleans my room to within an inch of its life. How this mystery cleanliness operative knows I’m gone and slips in and out of my room in my brief absence is a mystery to me. (apologies if this sounds like a far less funny version of David Foster Wallace’s account of his cabin cleaner on a luxury cruise liner – I swear I only now noticed the similarity. Anybody who hasn’t read DFW’s essay about life on a cruise liner – A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again - I strongly suggest you do so at your earliest convenience).
This village has just one restaurant, which is a disappointment in more ways than one. Lovely patron, but an incredibly dubious menu, that mixes Austrian staples of bacon and more bacon with Italian and Mexican influences. Given that the menu is available in either German or Russian, it makes every meal a little adventure. Tonight, he was serving beer to a couple of 13-year-old boys who were propping up the bar. He seemed happy to do this just so long as he splashed a little Coca Cola in their half-litre glasses of lager.
Odd country.


Blogger Hong Kong Merretts said...

Thanks for the Austria blog. Boyd and I have received an invitation to dinner at the Austrian Consul-General's house, and we were struggling for conversation pieces. That said, I may take a wide berth from the cleanliness/child abusing link. That said, I have checked the basement situation at her residence. Should be OK. Hong Kong is not known for its basemesnts.

Not sure how we ended up on the guest list, which also includes the Consul-Generals from Venezuala, Greece and Switzerland. Any safe small talk tips much appreciated. The C-G has it in her head, despite my protestations to the contrary, that I'm in some small way important. All replies welcome before next Friday. B x

11:03 PM  
Blogger Modern Domestics said...

Mike, Have you checked whether your chalet has a basement? Any vanishing guests over the years? Maybe best to duck downstairs during breakfast tomorrow and check while the staff are cleaning your room. You don't want to end up one of those well quoted neighbours who say "I had no idea this was going on right under my nose. They all seemed so nice". Just think, you'd be a sure bet for the $500 beat of the week with a scoop like that and what a hell of a dinner party starter that would be for any Consul-General's soiree...

10:59 PM  
Blogger Modern Domestics said...

P.S. Modern Domestics is Meraiah (& Tim in this case) :)

11:00 PM  
Blogger corders said...

Tim, there's definitely a basement here. they all seem to have them. alarmingly, there are also huge wood burning ovens in almost every chalet that put me in mind of the funrnaces used at modern crematoria.
BTW: I was disappointed to see you are the name behind modern domestics - I thought for a moment i'd doubled my readership.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Hong Kong Merretts said...

But Meraiah, Tim and I are avid readers. What we lack in numbers, we make up for in enthusiasm. B

11:36 PM  

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