Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Ever since I've lived in the Netherlands, I've had a conviction that there is a monumental conspiracy going on at the highest of levels. I have no proof but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.

You see, this is a very small and rather overcrowded country. Most people are squeezed into apartments or at best, one part of a house. In fact, many of my acquaintances don't even refer to ‘apartments’. They are so used to this way of living that even a two roomed flat under the eaves in the attic is called a house. Stretching the point a tad, I know, but it’s all relative.

Now there is a risk involved with such population density. It is that you might, just might, have too many cloggies gathered together in one place at any one time. The potential for revolt and uprising is severe. I mean, can you imagine a bunch of revolting Dutchmen congregating and lurking with ill intent? It's a worrying (or even revolting) prospect indeed...especially for the powers that be.

I noticed this very early on in my life here. I also noticed that every effort is made by the authorities to prevent such a situation occurring. It works like this: If ever you want to go to the town hall for something simple, such as the registration of a change of address, you can never complete the task in just one place. You will notice that there is a constant flow of people on the way to different parts of the building where they have been sent by bored clerks who have clearly been instructed to keep them all moving. If you register at one desk, you have to go to another desk to pay your fee, and then to yet another one to collect the confirmation of your registration. This, dear readers, is just a minor example of the way we are continuously prevented from gathering in numbers of more than one or two in one place. After all, remember those revolting Dutchmen...

It happens with any procedure you attempt to follow. In extreme cases, or extremely small buildings, you might even be sent to other buildings on the other side of the city to fulfill a simple, straightforward administrative procedure. For some reason the distance to your next stop is always described as being "just five minutes walk". Well, flexibility is one thing, but I have never before experienced such an elastic concept of time as this.

Another example can be found on the highways. You will find that the moment the traffic begins to build up and develop a reasonable pace, the overhead signs on the road will suddenly start flashing to instruct you to reduce your speed to 70 or even 50. This, I am reliably informed by a former police commissioner of my acquaintance, is to disperse the traffic, and prevent too much congestion.

The authorities seem to believe that if everyone drives any faster, they will all end up in the same place at once, and cause (perish the thought) traffic mayhem. Why this should be true in the Netherlands when in Germany, there are no speed limits, and apparently no reports of riotous road rage due to systemic and chronic bumper bashing, I am not quite sure, but when I put my Great Dutch Conspiracy theory to my police commissioner, he nearly fell off his chair laughing...or was it shock that I had actually discovered and revealed their dastardly plan?

Nevertheless, the Dutch people, bless them, are not so easily coerced. Indeed, if you should travel out in the countryside of a Saturday or Sunday, you will see how they escape or circumvent these attempts to distribute and disperse them. Sure enough, you will see what I have affectionately termed the 'granny packs'. These are large groups of lively senior citizens who cycle furiously around the country roads in glorious throngs of what seem like hundreds. Are they revolting? Absolutely... but only against (or is it 'to'?) all the rest of us who are trying sheepishly and desperately to get past them in our cars, vans, buses or any other motorised vehicle. Needless to say, out here in the wilds and away from the rigorous controls of their masters, they will not be moved!


  1. help! we're under siege by a group of unruley cloggies armed with extremely dangerous tulips..
    grrrr bloody bureaurcrapsy..
    good detective work there mein val..

  2. And here was me thinking of Holland as such a heroic place!

    My students would enthrall to my version of events when I told them about the old war fought to gain independance from Catholic Europe, a war fought at the same time as having to hold back the very sea itself! And then of how the country became the rich marketplace of Europe, whilst its "protestant" art (Vermeer) incorporated little motifs like skulls amongst the pearls as a reminder of how what God has given can easily be taken away.

    Okay, so my version might be the John Wayne version. But now you tell me it's all people adhering to red tape protocols? I'm shattered.

  3. What, no plans for sabotage? You could throw them at the computer terminals and cripple the entire bureaucracy!

    The only thing I noticed in Dutchiedom was that everyone was very polite in person, but behind the wheel, safely tucked away in their cars, people were aggressive and reckless! Reminds me of another place I know all too well...
    except our shoes are fur-trimmed.

  4. And then people call me a conspiracy theorist!

  5. HAHAHA... I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read this! So very true mumsy.

    PS. Baz got your message and says a big thanks :)


  6. MoMo who ran away to open spaces9:33 am, January 17, 2007

    You forgot to mention the bridges!!!! Bridges in Holland have three purposes, one is,when down, to allow the movement of terrestrial people, and of course prevent the passage of larger floating objects. The second is, when raised, to allow the passage of the larger floating objects but prevent the movement of the cyclist and cars. Finally the greater reason for bridges in Holland... to prevent the mass congregation of revolting dutchies by a complex system of intermittent circuit breakers.

  7. Hi Val,
    Yes we are really terrible aren't we ;-)
    We are glad though so many foreigners feel at home here.
    Hospitality is one of our better properties. Although there are some Dutchmen.....I'd rather not mention them here....

  8. ...and for Koos,
    I do see some parallel between conspiracy and blogging. At least in theory...;-)

  9. lol Val!

    I cannot imagine living in such cramped quarters...

    But I am very used to the way the beauraucracy conspires against us - it happens here in Canada, too!

    We just have to walk farther...
    And it's an elastic 20 minutes...
    And in colder weather...

    We have gaggles of Japanese tourists that move about the sidewalks of Banff, moving in unison like flocks of birds - similar to your "granny packs".

  10. Ah yes Gypsy...the tulips are red tipped spears indeed...lol...bureaucrapsy sucks wherever you find it, hey wee one?

    Ian, don't be so disappointed, it's just the mighty bureaucratic machine at work...and the Dutch have always been known for that. The reall spirit of the people is one of cheerful non co-operation. I rather like the way they say "yeah yeah" to all the rules and carry on doing their own thing.

    LOL Anne Marie...sabotage...putting clogs in the wheels, hey? ;-) You have a good point about the transmogrification of the cheerful friendly Nederlander into a teeth baring fiend when he gets in his car. I have seen this myself all too often...but when transferred to the granny packs it's even more scary..;-)

    Yes Koos !! ;-)

    Haha Jo, thought you could relate to this one ;-) In fairness, everyone in this country, cloggies included, suffer from the dispersal and distribution policy. I admire the granny packs for their cunning way of by passing the problem!

    Momo YES! You are right! The bridges...drat...I forgot the bridges. Thanks for reminding me ;-)

    Erik Jan, I'm sure you know my tongue is very firmly planted in my cheek when I write these thing ;-) I love you all and that's a fact! This country has been very good to me ;-)

    Dale, I love it! You have much greater elasticity than we do, but then it's easy to disperse you lot there..lol...just send you all up the mountains for a good skiing session, and leave the Japanese tourists to do the congregating ;-)

  11. Cut off their cheese and tulip supply. That will squash the rebellion.

    "I'm afraid the shields will be quite operational when your rebel friends arrive. Now witness the fire power of this fully armed and operational windmill." .... maybe I watch to much Star Wars.

  12. You're right to be suspicious, there is definately something sinister at work in Holland.


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