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 29, 2008

Snow way back

While we were waiting for the turkey and ham fest to begin on Christmas Day, this amazing cloud came rolling towards mum's house like a sort of aerial tsunami. I was convinced it was going to bury the house under a thick layer of snow. Instead, it just kind of petered out before I'd had my first Brussels sprout.

However, the cloud convinced me that we needed to see some snow while we were sandwiched between the Alps and the Massif Central so the following day we bundled into two cars and armed with mum's vague instructions headed northwest in search of the white stuff.
Looking at the map with mum, I saw a large red road heading right up to the place I was pretty convinced would deliver a white slope suitable for sledging. But she assured me that a much smaller yellow line on the map was a quicker and easier way to get there.
We set off and 40 minutes later started seeing snow on either side
 of the road. I was in the passenger seat next to Irmie and Rob and his kids were behind us.
I don't know if I've mentioned it here before but I'll come clean now: I hate heights.
So imagine my joy when the road started winding up a series of sharp turns none of which had so much as a kerbstone separating us from a precipitous plunge down the mountainside to our instant deaths. And the snow started settling on the road. 

I began expecting to see terrified mountain goats trudging back shaking their heads.
After about 20 minutes (which felt to me like 20 hours) we pulled over in a snow-covered observation point. To my great relief, Rob agreed that it was madness to continue up to the top of the hill. His argument, which I was more than happy to buy into, was that while getting up might be OK, driving back down an increasingly icy road in gathering gloom was probably not a great idea.
We stayed where we were and had a pretty good snowball fight while French drivers screeched past showering us with slush.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Not a word since November 10.
What can I say? Life's been uneventful. I've been playing too much hockey. I just didn't have the inspiration.
As usual, it has taken a trip away from the vibrant metropolis that is Voorburg to get the blog creativity juices flowing again. That and an encounter with a wild boar.
We're in France with my mum for Christmas. My brother's arriving tomorrow with his family, the other brother is possibly tooling down from his snowbound home in the Alps for Christmas dinner.
The Ardeche, where mum lives, is beautiful in the summer but even prettier in the winter - there are no Dutch tourists moaning about the absence of their favorite brand of peanut butter from the supermarket shelves or lying butt naked on the banks of the local rivers frying themselves to a mahogany crisp. The rivers are real flowing rivers rather than strings of rapidly stagnating pools and the weather is beautiful. Today was crystal clear and cold with a stiff wind.
As we drove over the hills towards the valley where mum lives, I saw this panorama on one side. With the children keen to get to grandma's and the midday sun lighting the scene a little too harshly for my taste I decided against stopping.
But once the sun started setting, I headed back up the hill on my own and stood for 40 minutes by the side of a road - the only vantage point available amid the steep hills and dense undergrowth - snapping away hopefully on the off chance I'd manage to get a decent picture.
What I forgot in my haste to get up the hill before the sun disappeared below the horizon was that mum's part of the world is home to a large number of wild boars.
Serious animals. Big, bristling bags of muscle and tusk that are cranky at the best of times. But these are not the best times. This is hunting season, when every French man and his dog is out 12-gauge shot gun over his shoulder trying to bag himself the essential ingredient of a sanglier stew. These boars aren't wild, they are (with thanks to Not the Nine O'Clock News) livid.
None of this crossed my mind until I heard the unmistakable sound of a large pig trotting at pace through the bushes on the other side of the two-lane road to where I was standing behind my tripod.
I turned to face the noise about five meters away and while I couldn't see the bastard I swear I could almost smell its breath and feel its eyes boring into me (and I'll try really hard to make that the last boar/bore gag) with a potent mix of fear and loathing.
As I looked around, wondering what to do next, I saw that I was standing right in front of a small path leading off the asphalt and into the bushes on the opposite side of the road to where the boar, which was now _ I could hear this _ pacing up and down impatiently in the undergrowth. I was obviously blocking a well-trodden pig pathway. My side of the road was a good three meters above the bush, meaning that the path was the only way down for any self-respecting pig. A cursory glance down the path revealed not one but several tennis ball-sized pig turds.
It was decision time. The sun was about 10 minutes from setting and I'd already been hanging around in the cold for 30 minutes waiting for the afterglow to light up the hills. But was it worth risking the wrath of a pig that may or may not just have lost its life partner and three little piggie offspring to a hunter's shot?
I decided it was, particularly as it offered the chance of a pic of a crazed boar bearing down on me. I got my other camera - one with film in it - ready. It has a nice wide angle lens that I reckoned would probably get a piece of the pig even if I was shooting over my shoulder while running away at full speed (which, it occurs to me now over a glass of white Burgundy in mum's kitchen, is nowhere near the speed of a boar going at full bore - oops. sorry).
I'd love to be able to say I nailed the pig just as I sidestepped its charge and am waiting for the film to be developed to post it on the blog. But sadly it refused to show its snout even as I wandered back to the car after realizing that the sunset shot was a waste of my time because all the hills in the foreground just disappeared into shadows once the sun went down.
When I told an even more exaggerated version of this story to mum she just shrugged her shoulders and said she saw a big pig wander through her back garden on the way to the neighboring vineyard just the other day. So tomorrow night I plan to sit in the warm kitchen with another white wine and camera at the ready and shoot the boar as it strolls by.