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This story, true in almost some of its elements, is born of an altercation between me and the Heiloo Village Council ('Gemeente'). Our garden was formally the car-park of my brother-in-law’s menagerie. We purchased a large chunk of ground at the side of the house and with the help of bulldozers, mechanical shovels and other sturdy appliances, turned a car-park into a garden, a process that involved the removal of hundreds of tons of rubble to the new car-park and the filling of the ensuing pit with lorry loads of good earth. However, a menagerie is, by definition, a place where horses may be expected to walk about aimlessly. Horses, including our own The Horse, do not appreciate the need to stay on one side of an unmarked boundary, especially if that boundary separates a pasture of grit and gravel (theirs) and one of lush grass, edible shrubbery and an attractive drinking-hole with water-lilies (ours). We decided to erect a pergola some 2 meters high around the perimeter of our garden, along which grapes, wisteria and passion flowers would grow and hang gracefully. Your humble servant was just completing his masterpiece when an official from the council appeared on a bicycle and explained that this ‘building’ was against the law, and construction must stop and go into reverse. The pergola apparently changes into a ‘building’ at a line one meter behind the façade of the house nearest to the street, and any building between the house and the road may not exceed one meter in height. The following I place here before translating into Dutch and posting to the council’s own website, where hopefully I can make my protest while damping the wrath of the council through humour. Our story begins with a fictitious reporter (verslaggever) approaching my good self to make sense of it all. Some puns in Dutch do not work in English.
Gemeente Heiloo Hero saves Citizens from probable disaster on Hoogeweg.
A story of one heroic council workers action to avoid armageddon along the Hoogeweg. We are today visiting a house that we have been watching with interest. A most beautiful garden has been rising from a wasteland, and we are here to talk to the owner, who has asked that his real identity not be published. We are pleased to respect his privacy and shall refer to him only as Mr. William, although his real name is William John Ricketts, English, 65, retired, resident at Hoogeweg 34, 1851PH, Heiloo. Telephone number on request.
Goedemorgen, Heer William, een hele mooie tuin hebben jullie, zeg.
Good morning, verslaggever, and that is very kind of you to say so.
So, Mr. William, you are English!
Ah, my accent of course! Difficult to hide, even after 30 years in your country!
Um.., quite, Mr. William. But I could not help noticing that the pergola is 2 meters high, everywhere except where it runs along the road, where it comes down to one meter. All the more remarkable because when I passed yesterday, it was all of the same height. Is there perhaps a reason for this loss of altitude?
Indeed there is verslaggever. I was under the impression that it was a pergola, and that is what it is, except where it crosses a line drawn exactly one meter behind the front of the house. It then changes, as if by magic, into a ‘bouwwerk’ or ‘Konstructie’. There are hidden dangers when such an object is more than one meter high, extreme dangers for people who walk along the Hoogeweg.
A very small pergola. Or a very large teenager on growth hormones.
And pray, Mr. William, how did you become aware of these dangers? It must have been very serious to go to the trouble of reducing part of it to half the original height.
It certainly was, verslaggever, but I was saved by an alert minion from the Gemeente, who warned that it was against the law, and that the law was for my protection and for others. He arrived like a superhero on a bicycle and cried ‘STOP’, just in time, before matters became critical for all of us along the Hoogeweg. Thank heavens such people are there to save us from our own stupidity!
Well, quite. Een reddende engel, Mr. William! Een ridder te fiets! And did this mannetje have a name? Our readers will want to thank him!
His name was Mister R. Spain, verslaggever.
Yes. It was on a plastic thingy, tied around his neck with a ribbon. Just like toddlers on a school trip, in case they get lost. It must be very easy to lose the way when you are cycling around looking for Evil Doings and Breaking of the Regulation that says that Things Must Not Be Too High. With such a label he can be brought home safely.
Oh, the caring mother that he has, Mr. William! But did he tell you exactly what these awful dangers were?
Not as such, but one can read between the lines, verslaggever! It has to do with international Terrorism! If an organization wanted to disrupt the Hoogeweg, they could put cameras and antennas and very small spies in such a pergola to prepare a plan! There is a VVV office right in the heart of our village!
They deal with tourists, Mr. William, not terrorists.
That’s what they want us to think, verslaggever. They have taken over a supermarket in Alkmaar. The Alki-Edah! And next year their leader may be president of America! Osama bin Leiden.
I think that’s Obama, Mr. William.
Yes, verslaggever, but we both saw through him directly! Not very subtle, is he?
Um, were there any ‘normal’ dangers, Mr. William?
Indeed there were, verslaggever. Mr. Arse-Pain mentioned that aggressive plants can take over such a high pergola along the road and attack honest citizens. The Giant Bolivian Spiky Melon, for example. If one of those jumps onto your head from two meters, you are history.
This could have been YOUR teenager - a simulated attack by Spiky Melons
Note - Tienersap also simulated
I notice, Mr. William, that the arch leading to the garden path is also, as required by the Regulation, one meter high and cannot be walked under. I myself received a painful blow to the pubic cluster when I tried to enter the garden.
'Gemeente' size portal
Most unfortunate, verslaggever, but we never walk into the garden at the front, preferring to go round to the back where the portal is two meters high.
But what about your friends who come to visit, Mr.William?
No problem, verslaggever. All our friends are male dwarfs, 80 cm or less.
Dwergen? But what about their wives, Mr. William?
The wives? Limbo dancers, every one of them. To a man.
And will the ‘Konstructie’ still function as the original pergola, Mr. William, and support plants?
Oh, absolutely. We will be using Klim Viooltjes, hanging carrots. And dwarf grapes. They must NOT go higher than one meter.
Why not, Mr. William?
Fear. They are scared of heights, verslaggever. Hoogtevrees. They are seldom seen because most pergolas are too high for them, so Mr. Arse-Pain is also helping to preserve a threatened plant sort.
A primeur! - Mr. William admires the first Dwarf Grapes
Mr. William, there has never been a terrorist attack on the Hoogeweg, nor has anyone suffered from assaults by gigantic prickly melons. Does this not tell us something? Perhaps about your mental stability?
What it tells us, verslaggever, is that Gemeente Heiloo has booked one hundred percent success in this campaign, that is why we are safe, and why we can be proud of them and grateful to their personnel. Especially to Mr. Arse-Pain. I feel so strongly about it, that I am personally prepared to examine the properties of all members of the Gemeente to make sure that they are as safe as they have made us, and that they have not overlooked any dangerous contructions in thier own gardens which may put these worthy people at risk. One good turn deserves another, as we say in your country.
If you say so, Mr. William. I notice that ‘Elzen’ trees are growing up under the new 'low ' pergola. How high can they grow, and what will you do when they are fully grown.
A good question, verslaggever. They will grow to about 160 meters, all within the Regulations, being natural and not a ‘konstructie’. I shall then hire a huge crane from Bo-Mij and saw the tops level, and then allow all kinds of plants to grow along the top at an amazing height.
Is there a name for this incredibly tall plant-support, Mr. William.
Yes, verslaggever. It is called a..... 'pergola'.
Mr. William has indicated that he would like to nominate his hero, Mr. Arse-Pain, for a special award in recognition of his diligent work in the enforcement of The Regulations that Things Must Not Be Too High. Perhaps in the form of a golden toilet roll.
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Bouwwerk___ ___________ Pergola