This Side of the Pond – Nov. 1

By Sarah Pridgeon

Frustrated because your plans to build a fairy castle in the industrial zone were thwarted? Annoyed you can’t get permission from the city for a sculpture featuring all five members of the Backstreet Boys? Then boy, have I got some great advice for you this week.
There is, it turns out, a simple way to avoid those pesky planning permission problems. All you need do is prove you are a monarch.
This advice comes to you from a genius by the name of Steve Ogie, who lives on Guernsey. The original, not the one in Wyoming – an island in the English Channel occupied by the cows that share its name and a modest population of Brits wearing permanent windbreakers.
I’m not sure you’ll have heard of this tiny place so, by way of a brief primer, it’s mostly known for being the place where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables and having the oldest postbox in the British Isles. The older houses have granite perches protruding from their walls called “witches’ seats”, which were meant to appease the spellcasters people thought were running amok on the island by giving them somewhere convenient to sit.
All of which paints a curious, though not particularly helpful, backdrop for the information I am about to share. It’s not April, so I’m relatively sure that Mr. Ogie isn’t having us on, but I still advise taking his idea with several grains of salt.
Mr. Ogie, you see, owns a piece of land on Guernsey upon which he had fond fantasies of building a home with two bedrooms and a flat roof. I’m not sure why the latter is important to his architectural dream, but then I’m also not the ruler of a nation.
The council, however, denied permission for reasons I have not been able to determine. Whatever their thinking, the end result was an irritable father with no place to bring up his eight-year-old daughter and plenty of time on his hands.
Mr. Ogier may have been angry, but it didn’t stop him from coming up with a solution. After ignoring three compliance notices telling him to quit building things he’d been told he couldn’t build, he renamed his plot of earth “Everland” and declared himself its ruler.
He took this announcement to the Royal Court on Guernsey, which was not impressed and said you can’t be a country if you haven’t got a population. One man cannot rule himself, was their argument, which I entirely support after watching my husband attempt to resist a plate of nachos.
Oh, but I do have a population, Mr. Ogier retorted: there are earthworms and also insects living in my state. Shockingly, the court rejected his claim.
Not one to give up at the first hurdle, Mr. Ogier convinced five people to become his citizens. This included his daughter, now known as Princess Evalyn.
The five citizens of Everland are not residents, he said, but they have passports and they can vote. Mr. Ogier notes that the passport can be used to obtain a driving license, but admits it will only be valid in Everland, which is 150 feet long and 50 feet wide and will likely one day have a house in the middle, so I hope they’re all good at navigating tight corners.
According to the terms of the Montevideo Convention of 1933, Mr. Ogier argued, displaying a remarkable willingness to do his research, this means his state has a stable community and as such is an independent state that needs not recognize the jurisdiction of the Guernsey court.
Deputy Bailiff Richard McMahon concluded this was incorrect. Everland, he said, is not a micro-nation.
I will note that the deputy bailiff should be applauded for his composure, as he at no point burst into giggles over an argument he described as containing “an element of absurdity”. Instead, he stated that any challenge to the jurisdiction of his court must be taken seriously.
The Development & Planning Authority quietly pointed out that the decision was all well and good, but they weren’t convinced Mr. Ogier intends to stop building his illicit abode. Mr. Ogier protested, stating that he was happy to make a formal undertaking not to proceed with development until he is able to prove his status as an independent country.
“I’ve sent an email to the United Nations and I’m awaiting confirmation,” he told the Metro newspaper. No word yet on how long it will take the UN to finish all the other important things it has to do and get to his request.
Mr. Ogier remains optimistic and expects the situation will be fully resolved in as little as ten years, which is plenty of time for his daughter to grow up and move away to college. As for the future, he has realistic hopes for his fledgling country.
There are not, for example, any sports players living in Everland, so he doesn’t anticipate entering a team into the World Cup. Mind you, I wouldn’t put it past him to make up his own international sporting event – something to do with worm wrestling, perhaps?