In a world of divisive politics, orange presidents and Brex-shit, we can at least agree on one thing. Garden gnomes are tacky.
Christmas 2016. A red-hatted gnome appeared among the Agapanthus in the front garden. Solar powered fairy lights glowed around him as if he were on a stage. Which, in a way, he was.
I protested. The gnome was my partner’s and, as we all know, it’s all about compromise. Grudgingly, I agreed. The gnome could stay until Christmas was over. Then he’d hibernate in the shed for a year.
In a Disney-style moment, my resolve dissolved.
Through partially closed Venetian blinds I saw a young girl pulling her mum towards the garden. The girl was mesmerised. ‘Come on. That’s enough of the gnome for today’ the mum said. Moving her daughter along. ‘We can come back again tomorrow’.
More young fans followed. Peering through the bars of the railing. Parents indulged their children for a few minutes on the walk home from school. The gnome had become a feature of their day.
As kids, when my parents took us to the seaside, Bridlington or Scarborough, we’d pass a country house with 2 teddy bears in the window. Arms in the air as if waving. My dad called out ‘the teddies are coming up! Are we ready?!’ We all waved as we passed. Even when the house was sold the new owners kept the teddies. Maybe our gnome would create similar memories for these children?
I couldn’t be the post-Christmas-grinch and remove the gnome. I’m grumpy, but not that grumpy. If he was to stay, I’d embrace the gnome. Pimp him. Amuse grown-ups as well as the kids.
Rummaging in the shed, I found a stick I could shave to a point at one end, and a small, flat piece of wood. I nailed them together into a small wooden sign. Just a bit taller than the gnome. Several coats of blackboard paint and it was ready to go.
Gnome puns. That was his shtick.
I checked no one was around outside before climbing over the bushes. I pushed the sign firmly into the ground.
Pun number one: Gnomer Simpson. Pretty good I thought.
This may all sound a bit eccentric. But our neighbourhood, Newtown in New South Wales, is exactly proudly that. My favourite mailbox, for example, has Barbie dolls dressed as a foxy policewoman and tennis player. Standing on AstroTurf, either side of a tennis net. No Junk Mail on a tennis ball swinging out in front of them.
Serendipitously, as I described the diverse nature of the neighbourhood to a visiting friend, a cyclist passed by. A woman with brightly coloured hair and a floor-length red velvet dress. Bubbles plumed behind her from a machine in the basket behind her seat.
The gnome’s pun changed regularly. More kids and parents stopped to say hello. It’s fun to see lone passers-by stifle a smirk.
The Abba song Gnoming Me Gnoming You was another of my puns. A couple stopped my partner to tell him they’d been singing that song that very morning.
As the gnome gained notoriety events took a sinister turn. He was stolen during the night. Gnome-napped. I put out an SOS on the local community Facebook page (‘Have you seen this gnome?’). We found him nearby, just out of sight, down an alleyway. The back of his head smashed in. A prank gone wrong rather than a malicious assault. Cranial surgery, with a big Band-Aid, and he was back on duty.
A few weeks later, another nighttime incident. Two more gnomes mysteriously joined him. One wearing a Hawaiian Leis, the other bunny ears. I didn’t even want one tacky gnome. Now I have three.
The gnome has become an Instagram star. His moniker: YourGnomieHomie. Follow him if you like gnome puns. (A niche market admittedly)
Embrace the gnome. You gnome you want to.