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.

My Photo
Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Monday, July 28, 2008


Julia woke up this morning and said: "Is that man here yet?"
The answer, I'm afraid, is no. That man, and who can expect an 8-year-old to be able to pronounce Radovan Karadzic, is still not here.

Esther's 10th birthday

Esther turned 10 today. I know, I know. I don't look old enough, or at the very least I don't act mature enough.
There are a couple of things to remark upon about this picture.
Handsome picture though it is, I can't take credit for it. This is all Julia's work. Reason for that - apart from Julia having a certain natural aptitude at snapping - is that I was absent for the cutting of my eldest daughter's birthday cake. Which leads us to the second problem with the photo. It's taken in front of our bookcase, in our living room, in our house in the Netherlands. It's NOT taken while sipping a glass of lightly chilled pinot noir next o my mum's swimming pool in the south of France. Which leads on to where I was. I was sitting in a humid little room all day waiting for Radovan Karadzic to be handed over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It's now 11 p.m. and there's still no sign of him. I've now been waiting exactly a week. Our holiday was due to start on Saturday with a leisurely drive to the holiday home of my brother Rob and his family in Burgundy followed by another leisurely trundle down to my mum's house.
Instead, we're all still here waiting for Radovan. 
I won't make any war crimes gags because delaying our holiday by five days isn't quite an atrocity of the magnitude of, say, launching a 44-month shelling/sniping campaign on Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead and the city in ruins. But still, I'd really like to be on holiday right now.
As usual, Irmie uncomplainingly picked up the parenting slack and took the girls to the local park with scary rides where she sat on park benches feeling queazy just watching Esther and Julia flying around rollercoasters etc. At the end of the day, Irmie brought the girls out to Scheveningen for dinner at a restaurant on the beach. This was conveniently just a minute by motorbike from the detention unit where, one of these days, Karadzic is due to take up residence and start playing pingpong with Croats he (allegedly) used to try to kill in pursuit of a Greater Serbia.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


A Dutch radio station reported today that Dutch people are rude. I would put a link to the article in here, but they weren't polite enough to translate it.
They reported this as news, but anybody who has had anything to do with the Dutch for any length of time will probably know what they mean.
I only skimmed the report but it was interesting to see that it was not only foreigners like me who live in the Netherlands who thought the Dutch are rude, it was also Dutch expats living overseas who felt ashamed of their countrymen/women's impoliteness.
Forms of politeness Hollanders haven't quite mastered include, according to this survey, saying thank you, not tossing litter on the street, joining the queue at the end, holding open doors for whoever is walking behind you and offering to help others.
This last one seems a little unfair to the Dutchman who copped a couple of bullets in the gut when he tried to help a woman being beaten up by her boyfriend on a Melbourne street a couple of years ago, but I can relate to some of the others.
I've never really noticed not having doors held open for me, but I have registered surprise bordering on bemusement when I've held doors open for people here.
One of the first culture shocks Irmie had when we got to Sydney was the bizarre, in her eyes, spectacle of people queuing for the bus on Lane Cove road. The commuters were all standing extremely neatly in orderly lines tailing back - sometimes 100 metres or more! _ from the bus stop. Irmie thought it was hilarious. Meanwhile, at Dutch railway stations I often have to fight my way out of trains because of the torrent of people storming to get into the doors before my fellow passengers and I have had a chance to get out.
My fine friend Daniel - as quintessential an English gentleman as you could ever hope to meet - has never forgiven or forgotten the Amsterdam tram driver who, when he very politely told her he didn't have the exact change to buy a ticket replied, "Well, then you have a problem." No offer of help. No suggestion of a solution. Meanwhile, probably 90 percent of the Dutch people on the tram hadn't been polite enough to buy themselves a ticket at all.
The Dutch word Lul, meaning cock, dick, knob etc, is also a favorite in Daniel's household after he heard it shouted at a car by a cyclist in Amsterdam. In defense of Dutch people, I think it may have been me who shouted the expletive at a Dutch driver.
I like to think of the Dutch as blunt and to-the-point. When you ask a Dutch person a question, you get a clear straightforward answer. They don't dress it up or water it down with polite platitudes, they just give you the truth, whether you like it or not. This can come off as impolite until you get used to it. I no longer notice it.
If you want obsequious bowing and scraping, go live in England. Which I read today is turning into the world capital or knife crime. I can see it now: excuse me my dear chap, would you mind awfully if I inserted this blade swiftly between your third and fourth ribs? Thanks awfully.
I called a Dutch etiquette school in The Hague today seeking comment on the survey, but the headmaster Ruud van Natuur's only response was, "go fuck yourself."

Friday, July 04, 2008

What could possibly have gone wrong?

I was pretty blase about the whole vasectomy thing. What could possibly go wrong, I asked myself.
Here's the answer:

A Romanian court has ruled a doctor must pay €500,000 in damages to a patient for chopping off his penis during a temper tantrum.
Naum Ciomu argued he was suffering from stress in late 2004, when during a routine operation to correct a testicular malformation, he suddenly lost his temper and sliced off the patient’s penis.
Shocked medics watched as Ciomu then placed the severed penis on the operating table and chopped it into small pieces.
Ciomu said his tantrum was brought on after he accidently cut his patient’s urinary channel and "overreacted" to the situation. He told the court it was a temporary loss of judgment due to personal problems.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It's a snip!

After long and careful consideration, Irmie decided it was time for me to get a vasectomy. I was less than enthusiastic at first, but after reading my Australian/American friend Meraiah's blog chronicling her recent infant-induced sleep deprivation horrors I finally agreed and went today to get, as they say here, helped. Actually, they say that when you get your dog or cat done, but I felt about the same.
We drove to a horrendous 1960s monstrosity of a hospital in Delft that was halfway through being demolished. Sadly, the department I was booked into was still standing.
I took a seat in a corridor in which were sitting two other couples clearly awaiting the same fate. One bloke was jabbering away excessively trying in vain to make light of the situation, the other was clutching the hand of his wife (I'm guessing vasectomies are carried out exclusively on men with wives, rather than girlfriends). I opted for sullen silence.
I was third in line so got to see the other two go in and then limp, legs spread wide, back out again.
When it was my turn to go in, a youngish bloke came out wiping his hands on a paper apron on the front of which was a BLOOD STAIN.
He had a small, ragged scar on his top lip which I couldn't help thinking he had got from the involuntary lashing out of a patient's leg. I was also concerned that he had tried to stitch it up himself and made a pretty poor job of it. None of this inspired a great deal of confidence in me.
He had as a sidekick a plump woman in her 50s wearing a hairnet and matching apron - though without the blood.
She instructed me to get out of my trousers, drop my drawers and lie down on the table in front of me. The room was a kind of half-arsed operating theatre - a table draped with paper and one of those scary lights with multiple bulbs familiar to me only from TV hospital dramas.
By way of small talk to relax me (I mean, seriously, why bother even trying. A giant bong stuffed with the finest Lebanese hashish wouldn't have relaxed me.) She complimented me on the excellent job I had done shaving the area to be treated.
I didn't have the nerve to tell her I'd actually gone and bought myself a tube of de-hairing cream rather than take a razor to myself. I know how often I cut my face shaving to be pretty sure that hacking away down there with a blunt bic disposable might have put the urologist out of a job.
The good doctor then picked up my shriveled johnson to get it out of the way and with it still in his icy grip - and without any trace of irony - said: "you might feel a little prick now."
I had my eyes closed by now. I preferred not to see what was happening and what kind of instruments were being deployed on my nether regions. The one redeeming fact about my ordeal was that it didn't make any noise. At the dentist, I can handle the pain, the thing I hate is the noise of bits of my body being chipped/filed/drilled away.
While there was no noise, there was music. I've been unsuccesfully wracking my brain all day trying to come up with an appropriate soundtrack for a vasectomy. All suggestions gratefully received. I may make an itunes playlist. Anyway, hard as I've struggled to come up with something appropriate, I think you'll all agree there couldn't be a LESS appropriate song than Light My Fire by The Doors, and yet that was what was playing. As Sweeny Todd was tackling my wedding tackle, Jim Morrison was moaning "Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire." I suppose it could have been worse: It could have been my favorite Doors song, The End.
As he was hacking away, the doctor and his assistant were bitching about various colleagues and they seemed to be particularly disparaging about surgeons. This alarmed me as I was under the impression I was undergoing surgery.
I could draw this story out more, but the fact is that it was all over inside 15 minutes and apart from feeling two little pricks (one each), it was pretty painless. I asked the doctor if I would be able to play hockey a day after the operation and he replied, "You will be able to, but you won't want to." I now know what he meant. It's exactly 12 hours later and there's not a great deal of sharp pain. What it feels like is that somebody has grabbed my scrotum, twisted it through 180 degrees, stretched it down to my knees and then let it twang back up again. It's not a sensation I'm enjoying. Tomorrow I have to ride my motorcycle to Utrecht. I'm not looking forward to it.
On the whole, however, I have to confess that the whole ordeal was not as bad as I'd feared. In fact the worst thing about it all was the cup of truly horrific coffee I was made to drink before being allowed to flee - legs spread wide - the crumbling, condemned hospital.