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 amongst the Agapanthus in the front garden. A ring of solar powered fairy lights glowed around him as if he were on a stage. Which he was, in a way.
I protested vigorously. But the gnome belonged to my partner and, as we all know, relationships are about compromise. Grudgingly, I agreed he, the gnome that is, could stay until Christmas was over. He’d then be put in the shed until next Christmas.
I’d weeded and mulched that garden. Bloody hard work in the Sydney summer heat. I wouldn’t allow it to become a tacky gnome fest.
My resolve was about to dissolve.
From my desk I saw a young girl excitedly pulling her mum towards the garden. Through partially closed Venetians, I could see them but they couldn’t see me. The girl was spellbound. ‘Come on. That’s enough of the gnome for today’ the mum said. Trying to move the girl along. ‘We can come back again tomorrow’.
More young fans of this enigmatic garden ornament followed. Peering between the bars of the railing. Parents indulged their children for a few minutes on the walk home from school. The gnome was a feature of their day.
As kids, when my parents drove 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. As we approached my dad called out ‘the teddies are coming up! Are we all ready?!’ We all waved as we passed. Even when the house was sold the new owners kept the 2 teddies. Maybe our gnome would create similar memories for these children?
Removing the gnome would make me the post-Christmas-grinch. I’m grumpy, but not that grumpy. If he was to stay, I’d need to embrace the gnome. Pimp him up to entertain the 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 to make 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 to be the gnome’s shtick.
I checked no one was around outside before I climbed over the bushes and pushed the sign firmly into the ground. It would be funnier if no one saw me put it there. It should just appear.
Pun number one was Gnomer Simpson. Pretty good I thought.
The gnome and sign probably sound a bit eccentric. But our neighbourhood, Newtown in New South Wales, is exactly 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 written on a tennis ball swinging out in front of them.
In a moment of perfect serendipity, as I described the diverse nature of the neighbourhood to a visiting friend, a cyclist passed by. A woman with brightly coloured hair, wearing a floor-length red velvet dress. Bubbles plumed behind her. Pumped out by a bubble making machine in the basket behind her seat.
I changed the pun regularly. More kids and parents stopped to say hello. I took particular pleasure when saw lone passers-by stifle a smirk. We were stopped by strangers and never-spoken-to-before neighbours. All curious about this new addition to the street.
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. They’d spontaneously burst out laughing when they saw the sign.
The gnome was gaining notoriety. But 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. A bit of 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 our gnome in the garden. One wearing a Hawaiian Leis, the other bunny ears. I didn’t even want one gnome and now I had 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.