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, August 25, 2008

Finally, the final holiday posting

It's possible I may have come over a bit food snobby in my last post. This isn't really the case, I was just taking an easy shot at the Dutch and their eating habits. I'm ashamed to say that after insulting my adopted countrymen for lugging the contents of their larders hundreds of kilometers I discovered that Irmie had smuggled stuff called Ontbijtkoek (breakfast cake) into our luggage. It is a nasty stodgy spiced cake that reputedly has the power to keep one's bowel movements regular even when your diet consists only of white French baguettes and the livers of obese geese.
I never touch the stuff (onbijtkoek I mean - I can never eat enough fois gras) in the Netherlands but when I'm camping I have no desire whatsoever for regular bowel movements. I can think of few things I would rather have during a week of camping than a good dose of constipation.
Of course, if I'd been blocked up I would have missed one of the highlights of the holiday - the sign posted all over the one toilet/shower block of our campsite in the Cevennes.
Apparently some kids had been playing in or around the toilets. The campsite was run by a couple of hippies so instead of beating the offending children with sticks or telling their parents they wrote the following message (translated from the French by me) whose poetic philosophy reminded me that France is the nation that gave us not only pate made by torturing geese but also Beaudelaire and  Sartre: 
"Using the sanitation block as a playground is forbidden.
It shows a lack of respect for the campers and those who clean the sanitations.
(So far so straightforward, although I'm not sure how much effect appealing to the respect of 10-year-olds for their fellow campers is going to have, then the powerfully existential kicker).
The freedom of the one begins or ends with that of the other.   
Beautiful isn't it? I read it and immediately felt like tracking down and guillotining the offending kids.
The campsite was on the banks of a fast-flowing mountain stream called the Tarn. Our tents were pitched right next to it. Alarmingly, there were lots of signs advertising evacuation routes and illustrated with little pictures of stick people fleeing fast-rising water. The picture above is of the river. The bridge crosses it at a point where it slows down and widens out enough for the kids to safely swim or canoe.
It was pleasantly primitive - there were no lights anywhere so the whole place pretty much was asleep by about  9pm. It was right next to an old footpath once used by Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson and his ass Modestine during a journey chronicled in a book called 
Travels in the Cevennes with a donkey. These days, strolling along the route behind a stinking mule is considered a very cool way to spend a two-week holiday and yuppies trailing their rented pack animals wandered by a few times each day. 
You can't blame them, the Cevennes is a very pretty part of France. After sweeping past our tent in a channel so narrow and shallow a donkey could wade across it in a couple of steps, the Tarn suddenly swells and has carved  a pretty impressive gorge out of the granite hills. French people thought it would be amusing to build houses on the very scariest edges of the gorges which made it all the more spectacular (see vertical picture above).
We enjoyed a couple of days of solid sunshine and then what is known euphemistically as "good walking weather."


Blogger dan said...

Interestingly, i have just been reading about RLS and his donkey. Apparently they averaged 2mph on their whole journey - peasants walked past them laughing at their tardiness.

Sorry to hear about Irmie and the puke!

3:09 AM  

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