Saturday, December 16

Alan Bennett (Part I)

The Gnome has a habit of reading several books at once. This is not an attempt to portray himself as an intellectual, merely a function of a chaotic life. He may for instance find himself about to embark on a transatlantic flight and decide the remaining chapters of his current read insufficient to cover the journey. In the bookshop he may read an opening chapter so compelling the book must be completed before all others. He may just reprioritise his list of potential reads having purchased something new.

For whatever reason, he recently found himself languishing in the bath perusing the initial chapters of Alan Bennett's 'Untold Stories', rather than finishing David Nicholl's 'The Understudy'. Apologies to you Mr Nicholl... your work with 'Cold Feet' and 'Starter for 10' is admired, but even you would probably agree (albeit grudgingly) Mr Bennett can pull rank in literary terms.

An unusual possibility became apparent after a few pages. Mr Bennett discussed (as is his wont) family life and mentioned a grandfather called Peel, a successful mill owner outside of Halifax in the late 19th century. Now as chance would have it, Mrs Gnome's father lives outside Halifax, next door to several old mills, in a dwelling called 'Peel House Lodge'.

Could there be a connection...

Tuesday, December 12

Another Eavesdropping Experience

The previous post mentioned the subversive pleasure the Gnome gets out of overhearing the conversations of others, and writing it reminded him of his favourite example of the genre.

Walking through an airport he caught this snippet of conversation uttered by a young woman to her companion in a voice that can only be described as conspiratorial. Such was it's impact on the Gnome's psyche, he almost stopped in his tracks to overhear the denouement. Alas breeding came to the fore and he refrained, continuing on his way to board some dismal aircraft travelling to some dismal town for some dismal meeting. He does sometimes long to know just how the conversation ended though.

The phrase? Oh yes - almost forgot...

"Much to my husband's surprise, it was at that point he realised she was a dominatrix..."

Mirrored Lifts

A conversation overheard is always a source of pleasure to the Gnome. It creates a sense of impropriety, an illicit encounter with the minutiae of other peoples' lives, a secret glimpse into the world of another human being.

Such was the case last week whilst in a lift, the insides of which were mirrored to give the illusion of space. Two men entered the already crowded lift on the journey down to the ground floor and one, having looked in the mirror remarked, "I like mirrored lifts - they allow you to see the back of your head..."

An interesting observation, but one for which the Gnome could find no obvious reason. The gentleman in question was young enough to not have to worry about pattern baldness, and was in fact almost completely shorn of hair in what the Gnome believes to be known (rather unfortunately) as a 'number 2'.

So why the desire to see the back of one's head? The Gnome cannot provide an answer but can tell you this. As soon as the phrase was uttered, every other person in that lift, himself included, immediately turned to the mirror to check the back of their heads.

Thursday, December 7

You are the Weakest Link...

The Gnome is in Bristol at the moment, working hard in a city centre hotel where next door to his meeting the BBC are encamped. Although the exact schedule of events inside the room naturally remain unknown to the Gnome, it appears to be something to do with the long running medical soap opera that is 'Casualty'.

Well, the Gnome presumes this is the case, unless there is a new, as yet unbroadcast show called 'Casuality'... He says this because of a sign on the hotel reception notice board - a sign shared with you to the left.

Notice though that there is another BBC meeting ongoing in the hotel - one to audition contestants for the popular televisual question and answer show 'The Weakest Link'. One can only assume the Marriott proof reader would be first in the queue for Anne Robinson's scathing comments.

"Which contestant does not know their adverbs from their gerunds... over which is there a question mark... whose career must now come to a full stop? Marriott proof reader - you are the weakest link. Goodbye."

Tuesday, December 5

Back in Blighty

The Gnome has been remiss. He understands the anguish that must have been felt by his readers. Where has the Gnome been? Has he finally succumbed to a life of fishing by a garden pond, his red cap sat at a jaunty angle upon his head? Alas no, nothing quite so relaxing (not that fishing is relaxing – especially if you are a fish).

The Gnome has left the bright lights of Manhattan island for pastures (and you will see he uses the word in its true context) new. After a particularly traumatic time for Mrs Gnome (think US social security bureaucracy, deaths in the family and personal illness) the Gnome, Mrs Gnome, Gnome dog and Gnome cats 1 and 2 have decamped back to dear old Blighty to pursue a freelance life amongst the sheep in Cumbria.

For the Gnome’s international readers (he still gets excited at the little dots on the world map representing his visitors) Cumbria is a beautiful rural community in the north west of England. Most residents work hard at fleecing – either from sheep directly, or the multitude of tourists that flock (sorry, pun intended…) to the area during the summer months.

So what will become of his blog? Well, there will be little to say now about New York, but of course life continues and so will the blog. The Gnome has plenty of material up his sleeve – all he lacks is the time to write it up.

That was the good thing about working for a large company – plenty of time to waste knowing he was being paid whatever he did…

Saturday, June 17

Cruel, but Honest?

Another sensless killing, another avoidable accident, another life recently curtailed...

They happen all the time, and the more newsworthy of them hit the headlines. Now the Gnome is of course not one to to be unmoved by the suffering of others but is he the only one to notice these events only seem to happen to the brightest, most loving, socially aware amongst us?

For every time a life is lost in tragic circumstances friends, relatives and work/school colleagues can be guaranteed to describe the deceased in glowing terms. 'Wonderful person', 'friends to everyone he knew', 'had an incredible future ahead of her', 'nobody who met him was not changed by his presence' etc. etc.

If by any chance the Gnome should succumb to a moment of random cruelty or misfortune, perpetuated by a disinterested and angry member of the Gods, he would like those who speak of him to be honest - no matter what the effect. In fact, to ensure he is sent to the afterlife with a grin on his face, he would appreciate some creative untruths to be provided to the media about his life. May one suggest some of the following?

"The Gnome had an incredible future ahead of him, but ruined it in an orgy of drink and drugs"

"He was a wonderful person if you liked sarcastic, mean bastards"

"He touched everyone he met, but thanks to a good legal team he was never charged"

"Nobody who met the Gnome was not changed by his presence. They would arrive happy and contented in life and leave him feeling miserable and suicidal"

Tuesday, May 23

Ode to the Anal Sphincter

The Gnome is currently in Los Angeles attending a medical conference on gastroenterology, charmingly entitled 'Digestive Disease Week'. Oh how he bets you all wish you could be here with him enjoying such a glamorous existence...

In recompense for his failure to invite you along to discuss clinical trials where participants mail their morning stool samples to doctors and the global economic cost of faecal incontinence, the Gnome will share with you a little homage to the that most neglected of bodily muscles, the anal sphincter. Alas the author's name never made it into the Gnome's memory, but his words shall live on in this blog for eternity...

They say man has succeeded where the animal fails because of the clever use of his hands, yet when compared to the hands, the sphincter ani is far superior. If you place into your cupped hands a mixture of fluid, solid and gas and then through an opening at the bottom try to let only the gas escape, you will fail. Yet the anal sphincter can do it. The sphincter can apparently differentiate between solid, liquid and gas. It apparently can tell whether its owner is alone or with someone, whether standing or sitting down, whether its owner has his pants on or off. No other muscle of the body is such a protector of the dignity of man, yet so ready to come to his relief.

Who says bowel disease can't be fun...

Eighties One Hit Wonder

For some reason best not examined too closely, the Gnome has, languishing in the deep uncharted depths of his iPod, a song by an eighties one hit wonders Matt Bianco.

Seeing their name spring up at him from the backlit screen this evening he was reminded of a wonderful incident from his childhood when, one fine Saturday morning long before the advent of 5-second delays on telephone calls to live shows, Matt Bianco were guests on Noel Edmonds 'Swap Shop'.

American readers will of course have no recollection of the important part this programme played in the upbringing of all of a similar age and nationality to the Gnome, nor of the intense rivalry with 'Tiswas' - the equivalent Saturday morning entertainment on the opposite channel, but let us not digress too far from our main message with talk of custard pies, swapping a complete set of Top Trumps for a Scalectrix set and of course Sally James.

Matt Bianco were, as is always the case with pop groups on such programmes, taking questions from viewers. The interview started well with the typical banal questions 8 - 13 year olds ask of their pop idols but then a magic moment occurred. Noel introduced Joe Bloggs from Nuneaton on line 5 and invited him to ask his question.

"Matt Bianco?" queried Joe, in as friendly a manner as one could wish for, "I'd just like to say you are all a bunch of wankers" and then (quite understandably) slammed the phone down.

You don't get TV like that any more - kids of today don't know what they're missing...

Sunday, May 21

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

The Gnome is impressed. Less than 24 hours after his concern about a lack of Argentinian and antipodean readers was published, small (but significant) dots have appeared within Argentina and Tasmania.

G'day and/or buenos tardes to you both.

Calling New Delhi

Perhaps if you are one of the 104 brave souls to have ventured onto this blog you will have noticed a world map to the right of the screen. A simple, yet to the Gnome fascinating, pictoral representation of the locations his musings have been accessed from.

One might not be surprised given his country of birth and current residence to see the large (well okay, not large per se, but larger than most...) dots straddling New York and dear old Blighty, but these are not the ones that fill the Gnome's heart with excitment and wonder.

It is the occasional visitor from exotic locales that intrigues him. For what reason did an itinerent surfer from Singapore access the site? What googled parameters could possibly be typed to ensure 'The Life of a Gnome' was a prominent enough result to warrant a mouse click from the Dominican Republic? Why has such a result not yet enticed any antipodeans or Argentinians to Gnomeland?

Pray tell us oh visitor from New Delhi why you were here. The Gnome, and through him the world (or at least a little bit of it), is waiting in breathless anticipation for your return...

City of Angels

The Gnome finds himself in Los Angeles. Not in the true southern Californian sense of spiritual enlightenment, but the rather more mundane definition of happening to be there.

Taking a taxi from the airport he found himself with a driver as locquatious as a former Trappist monk making up for lost time. A rare event, for unlike London where cabbies are renowned for a constant stream of pessimistic babble on the psychological trauma inflicted upon them by under-performing sports teams or government edicts, taxi rides in the USA are usually conducted in sullen silence. Indeed within the metropolises of America it is rare to discover a driver for whom English is even a second language, leaving the Gnome believing the famous poem on the Statue of Liberty reads:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
So they can all become cab drivers.

In this instance though the cabbie was a veritable goldmine of witty repartee and one liners. For the 30 minute drive an abstract, free-flowing stand up routine was provided. A comedic journey from the foibles of small statured Hummer-driving Asian grandmothers, passing momentarily via a diatribe on the evils of cell-phone possessing Christian evangelists, to the atavistic pleasures of late evening fares involving young, attractive, drunk women (he claimed to have spent his entire life being told where to go by the latter, but at least he was now being paid for it...)

Rising to the occasion the Gnome mentioned he had been told LA stood for 'lots of arseholes' - a point upon which the driver readily concurred. Pausing momentarily for effect, he looked through the mirror to catch the Gnome's eye and continued '...but of course assholes are like oil. Technically we are self sufficient, but we still seem to import lots.'

At the time the Gnome joined in the laughter at this riposte, but as the daylight dims over the Hollywood hills has come to the conclusion it might well have been a rather subtle insult.

If so, then the driver is to be saluted. It is not often the Gnome is caught on the wrong end of an ironic comment and he feels all the more fondness for the States and its taxi drivers because of it.

Sunday, May 14

American Sports

The Gnome supposes it is inevitable he will have to write about American sports eventually, so feels it is as well to get it over with now.

What are they all about?

No, really- somebody explain it. How does the world's only superpower end up with a monopoly on the world's most boring sports? Sports that virtually nobody else plays, or has any interest in?

American Football
A game resembling rugby with all the speed, skill and excitement surgically removed. American Football had a brief moment in the sun a decade or so ago in England when a (then) new television channel started showing highlights. It did very well, and understandably so. It is a great spectator game when something is happening. The trouble is, things only actually happen for about 30 seconds and then there is a 5 minute break. As soon as games were shown live everybody turned off through boredom.

As an avid cricket fan, the Gnome can sort of understand the fascination with baseball. The traditions, the history, the slow pace, the arcane rules. All of these are familiar to anyone brought up on cricket. But you have to ask the question - why not just play cricket? All the other ex-colonies took it up, what made the USA think rounders was a more suitable sport? And as for the concept of a 'World' Series between Toad Suck, Arkansas and Glory Hole, Montana, no comment will be made.

NASCAR racing
Come on, be serious now. Driving round and round an oval track for two hours is not a sport. It's dull. More fun can be had watching the M25 around London - at least people occasionally try to overtake each other and sometimes even change lanes. There's also more chance of seeing a life threatening accident which, let us all be honest, is the only reason anyone watches motor car racing of any kind...

The Gnome's strongest dislike is for this 'sport'. Grown men (rather too well grown if one is to be truthful) run up and down a small court and score every single time. So the score goes from 0-0, to 2-0, to 2-2, to 4-2, to 4-4 etc etc ad infinitum. Thirty seconds before the final whistle, every game the Gnome has seen has been tied on 110-110. These last 30 seconds determine the winner of every game... Basketball could, and should, be reduced to a 30 second game. Everything that went on before is pointless.

Whatever sport is watched on American TV, it is constantly interrupted by adverts. Despite his profession, the Gnome does not generally approve of adverts interrupting sports, but in the case of American style sports, he is sad to say the adverts are often far more entertaining than the sport they interrupt.

Monday, April 17

More Shopping Confusion

And whilst the Gnome is on the subject of Manhattan shops, why is it not possible to buy wine and beer in the same shop?

Beer, but not wine or spirits, is sold in supermarkets. Wine and spirits, but not beer, is sold in liquor stores...

Is this some health conscious attempt to help Manhattanites avoid the disaterous consequences of mixing the grape and the grain?

Carrier Bag Wastage

Can anyone explain this to the Gnome?

When going to a supermarket, deli or indeed any form of food shop in New York, your purchases are placed inside a plastic bag, which in turn is then placed inside another plastic bag...

Would it not be more sensible, and indeed cost effective, just to make the individual carrier bags strong enough to withstand the rigours of carrying more than one soup can at a time?

Answers on a postcard please...

Photography Lesson

There is a delicatessen near to the Gnome office that is somewhat of a celebrity location. The 'Hello Deli' is located next door to a TV studio, where it attracts in-the-know tourists in droves. They come to have their photograph taken outside this televisual landmark for the Gnome understands a regular late night chat show often films a skit with its guests there. Cameras are certainly often seen there, with lines of patient fans and the occasional papparazzi throng surrounding them.

Now the Gnome is not by any stretch of the imagination a photography expert, but he has noticed a strange flaw in many tourists' technique. They generally leave one or more members of the party to stand in front of the shop and then cross the street to take the photograph from afar, presumably to get a decent wide angle shot of the shop frontage and family.

In the interests of research, the Gnome did exactly the same (although the blue anorak seen in shot is, he hastens to add, not known to him. One must maintain a certain level of dress code to be considered a part of the Gnomic Brotherhood...)

Can you see the problem? The blue anoraked figure is hardly recognisable - he remains a distant figure, forlorn almost, lost in front of the building. The Gnome is certain once the photos are developed back home in those areas of the country where all names are double-barelled, a huge sense of disappointment occurs when it becomes clear Bobby Joe and Mary Jane are all but unrecognisable.

Not one tourist to the Gnome's knowledge has taken the obvious approach to the problem. Take the photograph with your subject on the same side of the street as the camera. See how much space there is on the left of the Gnome's example? Frame it so the relatives are placed there and you can return to Montana or South Dakota secure in the knowledge even the poor eyesight of Grandpappy Billy Joe will be able to see you were truly there...

Failing that - learn how to use Photoshop...

Feline Frolics

Like the Gnome, you have probably been following a recent human, or rather feline, interest story closely. It has been front page news in New York, regular updates provided on television, and even the BBC picked up the story. It is of course Molly the cat and her fortnight stay within the walls of a Manhattan delicatessen.

The Gnome is delighted of course that Molly is safe and sound, but wonders a little about the sanity of the initial rescue attempts, when a 'pet communicator' was called for.

Strange though it is to relate, Mrs Gnome has actually met a pet communicator* whilst walking Gnome Dog. Apparently through powers unheralded in this age of scientific reason they can (for a negotiated fee) tell owners what their pets are thinking.

Now forgive a little cynicism here, but the Gnome has a pretty good idea what Gnome Dog and Gnome Cats are thinking without handing over any lolly. He would suggest 'walk', 'eat', 'sleep', and 'chase string/ball/stick', would pretty much cover it. Gnome Cats, generally percieved to have a higher intelligence level than Gnome Dog, may perhaps compose more detailed thoughts along the lines of 'eat then sleep' or 'sleep then eat', but even so, not really looking into the mind of Einstein here.

The pet communicator trying to rescue Molly played an audiotape of whale songs to 'give her inspiration'. Far from inspiring to the trapped puss, this would surely terrify it, for when in the evolutionary paradigm were cats ever exposed to whales? Surely the haunting sound of a mating humpbacked whale, so beloved by human beings of a certain sensibility, would be interpreted by the cat as a fearful monster awaiting them outside of their self imposed cocoon? Cats tend to look and act scared at the most innocent of noises, so one might predict their reaction to whale music to be a little on the skittish side.

When the whales failed, the next anthropomorphically induced, doomed-to-failure plan was to bring a small kitten to the hole to try and 'awaken the cat's maternal instinct'. Presuming the kitten was not actually Molly's progeny, how is maternal instinct going to be awakened? Most animals will happily kill any non-genetically linked offspring with nary a thought. Anyway, the Gnome had a female cat once and she displayed all the maternal instincts of Lucretia Borgia.

The BBC ends it's report by saying '...despite the traps, kittens and therapists it appeared it was the drilling through three layers of bricks that finally freed her.'

Really? How surprising...

* The Gnome hopes his restraint from engaging in any attempt to make humourous capital regarding Mrs Gnome out of this sentance is duly noted

Friday, April 14

The Professor

Sad though it is, there are many homeless people on the streets of Manhattan. Living in the same neighbourhood for any time means one soon gets to know them, or rather recognise them, for the Gnome doubts anyone in this busy metropolis takes the time to ask their stories.

Most are quiet, lost in a world no-one who does not share their experiences can truly understand. Perhaps as in Neil Gaiman's book 'Neverwhere', they are part of some underground fantasy world, unable or unwilling to be part of the 'real' world around them.

There is one regular on the Gnome's patch though who does interact with passers-by, albeit it in a rather unconventional and, to the uninitiated, frightening way. For somebody passing by this Miles Davis lookalike will immediately be screamed at, "What the fuck do you know? I'm the professor!"

The first time this happened to the Gnome, he readily confesses he jumped out of his skin and hurried away as rapidly as possible. However, more recent sightings have been less fraught, as it soon became apparent this was a standard response to anyone who trespassed within some invisible personal space boundry and once said, no further action or communication would be forthcoming.

Now the Gnome is prepared and, if timed correctly, he can have the semblance of a conversation with the Professor. On approach a seemingly innocent scientific question can be asked. Something along the lines of "Do you not think the Hawking's theory postulating the existence of zero space with gravity high enough to absorb all light clearly solves one of the paradoxes in Einstein's theory of relativity?" and get the answer "What the fuck do you know? I'm the professor!"

And let us be honest, he is probably correct in that assumption, for the Gnome has no more idea of the answer than the next man (unless one happens to standing next to Professor Hawking of course)

Tuesday, April 11

Milky Way and Mars

The Gnome has always considered the Mars bar a solid, reliable confectionary item. It's long-term advertising slogan of 'a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play' summed it all up nicely. It was reliable. Proud. Traditional. And, most importantly, suitably stodgy. Nobody ever finished a Mars bar and felt they could eat another until such time as they had completed another round of working, resting and/or playing.

The Milky Way on the other hand was the effete dilletante. Its mother-friendly advertising of 'the sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite' did it no favours in the Gnome's mind. It suggested the Milky Way was an ephemeral pleasure at best, not to be trusted to satisfy a true chocolate craving. And anyway... what was the point of spending your pocket money on purchasing a chocolate bar your mother approved of?

So why the ruminating on childhood memories of chocolate bars, the Gnome hears you ask of him? Well, did you know that in the US, what the UK considers a Mars bar is known as a Milky Way?

Among the many things the Gnome has had to get used to in the States, the thought that eating a Milky Way of all things is the best way to satisfy an afternoon sugar craving has been one of the hardest to accept...

Monday, April 10

A Sad Farewell

The Gnome would like to wish a belated farewell to one of his favourite authors. Since his father introduced him over 20 years ago to the world of Ed McBain and his hard working detectives of the 87th Precinct, the Gnome has looked forward to each and every new chapter in their lives. Evan Hunter - Ed McBain was one of many pseudonyms - was amazingly prolific. One 87th Precinct book a year for over 50 years, not to mention all the other titles produced under different names.

Although he died last year, it was only last week when reading the back cover blurb about the author that the Gnome realised it had occurred. It made the pleasure of reading that final book all the more poignant, knowing he will never again be party to the lives of the characters whose ups and downs, romantic loves and losses, professional successes and failures he has followed over the years.

Ed McBain's death is obviously felt deeply by his family and friends, but to the Gnome, it is the death by proxy of Steve Carella, Ollie Weeks, The Deaf Man and the other characters he feels the greatest loss for. Incidentally, Ed McBain had a wonderful knack of finishing each section of the story with a pithy, ironic, funny one-sentence paragraph.

I wish I could do the same.

Actors and Astronauts

Manhattan is chock full of actors. Some are international superstars, slumming it in off-Broadway productions to convince their peers that their desire for artistic recognition has in no way been dimmed by their multimillion dollar paycheck earned for a leading role in 'Saving Private Jaws from the Lord of the Rings VII'. Some are honest journeymen and women, earning a crust twice a day in the chorus line of whichever copycat musical is popular with the tourists that month. Others are genuinely talented individuals, whom the Gnome admires for their ability to suspend his belief for the 90 minutes of a well written play.

But there is another category. A large category. Let us call them the 'almost-actors'. Often, at parties or other social gatherings, the Gnome will meet someone who proclaims themself to be an actor, but when asked to elaborate they become defensive and explain they have yet to be given the break. That their undoubted talents have yet to be discovered. That they remain, as yet, an 'almost-actor'.

Interestingly, this admission is always followed up with the statement 'but I've been to loads of auditions', delivered in a perky and up beat fashion. Somehow the 'almost-actors' feel as if that justifies their chosen path. But if the Gnome went to 'loads of job interviews' for a specific career and didn't get offered a position, he would rapidly come to the conclusion that he was... well... crap...

Never one to miss an opportunity for irony, when asked about his work by an 'almost-actor' (presuming they stop talking about themselves long enough to do so), the Gnome tells them he is an astronaut. An astronaut who has admittedly yet to go into space per se, but (and this is delivered in his most perky and upbeat voice) has been along to loads of mission control briefings.

Broadway Laxative

As one would expect from an address which includes the word 'Broadway', the Gnome's office sits adjacent to a theatre. A theatre currently performing 'The Color Purple', the worthy and Oprah Winfrey-approved musical version of the book by Alice Walker. On its gala opening night the Gnome could, by peering out of his fifth floor office window, see the stars slowly make their way up the red carpet, pausing for the paparazzi. This vantage point provided an excellent angle to view, in revealing detail, the decolletage of many a famous actress. But the Gnome digresses. For however tempting it is to dwell on past voyeuristic pleasures, this entry is about something else.

To advertise the show, there are four large video screens outside the theatre on a continual loop of TV coverage from the opening night (thankfully there is no mention of any fifth floor pervert) and interviews with the cast and crew.

Now by chance, it seems everytime the Gnome walks past these screens the director is telling passers by they will find the show a 'cathartic'. One must presume he means emotionally challenging, but the actual definition of a cathartic is 'an agent for purging the bowels', something no self respecting theatre afficianado would surely wish to do in their $100 seat, however much the director felt the show deserved it...

Friday, April 7

The Virtue of Patience

The Gnome is a patient man. It's a genetic thing, for his father was noted for patience too and so apparently was his father's father (somewhat confounding the usual stereotype of red haired Irishmen).

Further down the bloodline, Gnomic archers at the Battle of Agincourt who, when told to stay their arrows until the French knights got really close, shrugged contentedly and said 'fine by me'.

Indeed, any Gnomes who found themselves in Cardigan's Light Brigade, would no doubt have felt very disturbed at all that charging towards the Russian guns malarky, when history suggests their preferred strategy of waiting patiently for reinforcements was probably a more sensible option in the circumstances.

So, just to sum up, patience is a Gnome thing. We pause. We consider. We wait.

Maybe it is because of this patient attitude to life that the Gnome finds himself fuming at the average American office worker in a lift. Now his understanding of lifts is that by pushing the button representing the chosen floor once, and confirming it has illuminated appropriately, suggests all is well and in good time the doors will close and whisk him to his desired location.

So why do so many insist on stabbing the button repeatedly? It won't make the lift move any faster. Double-clicking does not override the wishes of all those people who have asked to get off at floors below yours. All it does is make their finger hurt and the Gnome's blood boil.

The Gnome does however reserve his highest levels of contempt for those who feel their work is so important that the extra two seconds they gain in the office by holding down the 'close door' button is worth the anguish caused to some unsuspecting co-worker who finds the doors closing in their face.

For them, there can be only one punishment... The Gnome rests casually against the panel and surreptitiously pushes all buttons below their chosen floor. The pleasures obtained by watching them grow ever more annoyed as, at each floor, the doors open to reveal an empty corridor is one that only a truly patient man can enjoy.

Tuesday, February 7

Latin Memories

It is not often the Gnome's classical education is called on in an everday situation, but just occasionally it turns out to have been a useful investment by his parents. Although long dimmed by the passing of time, he does have a smattering of Latin, learnt at the hands of the ever-so strict Mr Charles, whose response to any hesitation to provide an appropriate conjugation of a verb such as evinco (evinco, evincere, evici, evictus if the Gnome recalls correctly) met with a disproportionately violent assault on the knuckles with a 12" wooden ruler.

Today of course, one could report this to the the United Nation Security Council who would provide supportive words and quite possibly a threat of military action, but at the time no such redress was available to 11 year old schoolboys. Indeed, considering the malevolent glee that Mr Charles took in graphically describing the cruel and unusual punishments meted out to Roman legionnaires who transgressed in some fashion, perhaps the Gnome and his fellow pupils of Form 3G were lucky to have been let off with only the occasional reddened knuckle.

But the Gnome digresses. The reason he is bringing up fond memories of school boy Latin is the recent 'brainstorming' session he attended to come up with new names for a company attempting a rebranding exercise. Anyone who has attended these things will know they begin with long awkward silences where nobody wishes to look foolish by suggesting a name that is immediately decried by their peers as ridiculous and without any redeeming features, so the Gnome always feels obliged to set things rolling (as - so long as his company keeps paying him - he has little concern if clients think he is a moron).

This is where the Latin comes in, for it can provide words that sound impressive to marketing executives who know no better. After a few Latin words were aired and discarded, the group moved onto the idea that their company would be best served by naming it after a colour, but with the added psuedo-credibility of translating it into Latin.

And that's when everyone turned to the Gnome and asked him to reel off colours in Latin.

Now, in every other language he has studied, colours were right up there at the front of the basic text book, hovering just after vocabulary to describe things you find in a classroom. Thus, within a few weeks, the eager pupil can ask questions along the lines of 'Where is the yellow ruler?', 'Please could you pass the orange book?' and 'Tell Smithers he has a green bogey hanging out of his nose.'

But for the life of him, the Gnome could not remember ever being taught the Latin words for colours, and he sat there, helpless in the glare of his clients, with his reputation as a classically educated expert on the Latin language in tatters.

Friday, February 3

Danish Flag Exports Rise

The Gnome has no wish to get involved in the controversy over the cartoon images of the Mohammed, but does wonder just how so many people across the Muslim world are getting hold of Danish flags to burn?

Where are they coming from? Surely producing Danish flags is a rather specialist area, particularly when it comes to producing them for an angry populace to set ablaze. He supposes there may be an underground flag factory in some forgotten corner of the West Bank, but surely their production line is hard wired to cater for the more regular displays of American, Israeli and British flag burning?

He can imagine the calling of an emergency management conference to respond to the changing circumstances - "Gentleman, it has come to our attention that there is a significant growth opportunity for us - buy in additional stocks of red dye and find me a designer who knows what the Danish flag looks like"

If no such factory exists, then surely the most likely source of these flags is Denmark itself, although having lived in Copenhagen for about a year, the Gnome can't recall ever seeing anywhere selling them.

How does the modern flag burner reconcile the possibility that he is supporting the economy of the very country he is supposed to be boycotting by buying their flags from them in the first place?

The Gnome hopes the reprinting of the cartoons doesn't spread to other Scandinavian countries, otherwise there will be the additional complication of using Swedish matches to light the flags...

Wednesday, February 1

Closer to the Truth

Have you ever had one of those bizarre moments when on talking to someone you realise they could hold the answer to one of your most confounding questions?

The Gnome recently attended a meeting where, being the gregarious person he is, he started talking to another participant. Having assuaged his human desire for knowing names, job titles and reasons for attendance (just two souls adrift in a corporate world of free coffee and bagels apparently), he discovered she worked in the building directly opposite his apartment.

Now the Gnome realises his regular readers are few (or quite possibly non-existent) so for those who stumbled here by a drunken slip of the keyboard let him refer you back to an earlier post regarding the strange habits of Orange Man.

It turns out his companion worked on the 25th floor of Orange Man's building, just one floor below the object of the Gnome's attention. Surely, there was a possibility that she could throw light on the matter of his prediliction for the colour that gave him his name?

Alas she did not know of him, but although the sudden outburst of entusiastic questioning about such a strange topic soon made her edge nervously away on the premise of talking to someone else, she did first reveal the floor was occupied by PR consultants working with famous rap artistes such as Blobby Dib Dob, Floozy K and Potz N Noodlz (the Gnome apologises for not being particularly au fait with such characters and as such may not have transcribed their sobriquets with complete accuracy).

Could it be the Man in Orange is simply displaying gang colours?

The Gnome will continue to investigate, but in the meantime, if you recognize the office in the picture you could help, for this is the lair of the Orangeman...

Embroidery Capital of the World

Could anyone here name the 'Embroidery Capital of the World'? The Gnome doubts it, so feels he should put you out of your misery. It is in fact Union City, New Jersey. A road sign on leaving Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel proclaims it so.

Apparently, Union City has been the 'Embroidery Capital of the World' since 1872, leading the Gnome to ponder from whom they took the title in that fateful year, and how they have managed to hold on to it for so long.

Is it an annual competition - akin to the America's Cup - with qualifying rounds until two worthy contenders emerge to battle for supremacy in a series of tense, emotionally charged stitching battles? If so, why are the general public uninformed of such a titanic clash? The drama of international cross stitching and needlepoint needs to be laid bare for all to see.

Once this step is taken, it can only be a matter of time before we have pro-celebrity embroidery with public voting to remove the team who foolishly used an Algerian Eye stitch when custom would have suggested a Crow's Foot instead.

Olympic recognition would surely follow - the Gnome can only imagine the improvement to the opening ceremony if the flags of all nations were embroidered rather than mere dyed canvas.

Perhaps one day in some alternative future there will be legions of fans queueing to get a glimpse of their embroiding heroes in action, posters of the more aesthetically pleasing competitors adorning teenagers' bedrooms, questions asked in Parliament as to why Britain cannot produce embroiders to compete at the highest level...

The Gnome feels moved to caution Union City residents. Do not be complacent in your 134 year grip on the title of 'Embroidery Capital of the World' - your reign may soon be challenged...

Monday, January 16

Toodle Pip

One of the unheralded pleasures of the Gnome's working life is to sow seeds of doubt about his sanity to his American colleagues. He has found one of the most productive ways to do so is to use peculiarly English words and phrases in his everyday speech.

For example this afternoon he bid farewell to one such colleague with a cheery 'toodle pip', leaving said colleague unsure whether to consider himself praised, insulted or just lucky he was unafflicted by the Gnome's obvious verbal madness.

It got the Gnome thinking on the origin of 'toodle pip' and for once, a little work time Googling has left him none the wiser, although he discovered a number of sites with definitions for the phrase.

The Urban Dictionary offers two options - the more common usage of 'to say goodbye in a very friendly way', or as a description of an attractive infant (as in 'you have a very cute toodle pip there').

The English-to-American Dictionary offers just the former option - 'a cheerful (and rather old-fashioned) way of saying goodbye', but it concludes its entry by ruminating on the origins by saying 'where on earth it comes from, I'd like to know'

So at least the Gnome need not feel alone in his etymological failings.

Friday, January 13

Read the Small Print

Looking to dine out last night, the Gnome discovered a restaurant that appealed to his miserly sense of value. Displaying a large sign offering 2 cocktails for the price of 1, he ushered Mrs Gnome in, sat her down and, with a seemingly disdainful disregard for personal finance, insisted she join him in an aperatif. Unused to such surprising largesse, she agreed and an order for two Cosmopoiltan's was quickly placed with the waiter.

Now, the Gnome's understanding was that these two beverages would cost him only the price of one, but the restaurant had other ideas. Four Cosmos appeared at the table and when questioned, the waiter explained that the offer's small print explained that each person would get two drinks for the price of one, not that two people could share the offer.

The only consolation was that with enough raw alcohol to render an elephant incapable, Mrs Gnome never noticed the anguish on his face as he was presented with the final tab...

Wednesday, January 11

XXX Penguins

The Gnome watched 'March of the Penguins' last night. Excellent documentary though it was, he couldn't help but be slightly disturbed by the mating scenes. Filmed in extreme close up with romantic soul music, the scene ended with the long drawn out gutteral squawk of a (presumably) ejaculating penguin in the throes of ecstacy.

Could this be the first film in a new genre of 'Pingu Porn'?

Tuesday, January 10


There is a rather posh looking hotel near the Gnome's abode called the Milford Plaza. Tall, imposing and with besuited doormen fighting each other to carry your bags inside, it has a huge neon sign on top of the building to advertise itself.

As these lights must be at least two stories high, the expense of illuminating the whole name was presumably too prohibitive, so it is limited to 'M Hotel'. Even so, it conveys the appropriate marketing message of a modern, plush and trendy lodging space, ready and able to supply all your holiday or business needs whilst temporarily residing in the Big Apple.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago the bulb in the 'H' went out, leaving this grand - and no doubt expensive - establishment advertising itself as a simple 'M-otel'

Monday, January 9

Christmas Songs

The Gnome wonders why Christmas songs, which leading up to the holiday are so annoying and unwelcome, suddenly stick in your brain in January and refuse to budge?

He has been merrily humming 'Walking in a Winter Wonderland' and 'Santa Baby' at all hours of the day and night, leading Mrs Gnome to comment he is, as always, lagging behind when it comes to trends in popular culture.

Friday, January 6

Help Desk Hijinks

The Gnome has read many of the stories swirling around the electronic ether about so called 'help desks' and their unwavering ability to make the most simple of problems worse.

He has always felt uneasy about immediately jumping to the obvious conclusion that all help desks were staffed by a plague of imbeciles but may have to revise his opinions after a recent incident.

He returned to work to a new voicemail system. A system which, in the glowing e-mail communications that preceded its arrival, would 'revolutionise telephony services in the 21st century and provide unparalleled levels of user compatibility and functionality without degradation of the essential hominid interpersonal interactivity experience'.

Impressed by the promise of such riches (if not by the copywriter who described them), the Gnome's attempts to access this marvel of technology came to naught and, with the charming naievete for which he is renown, called and requested his PIN be reset.

No answer was forthcoming from the help desk, but on follow up he was told his request had been speedily dealt with and a message left to confirm the new PIN.

A message left on the very same system he was unable to access.

Thursday, January 5


The Gnome's English birth, upbringing and education is often called upon by the American members of his team to aid them in translating some peculiarly English phrase or saying into American, but a recent request as to the meaning of 'a schnugg' had him puzzled.

Having recently seen the excellent 'Puttnam County Spelling Bee' play on Broadway, he knew it would be helpful to have the word placed in a sentence, helping him judge the likely meaning by hearing it in the context of other, hopefully more recognisable, words.

The full quote turned out to be a comment on one of his UK-based staff's activities at the recent Christmas party. Apparently during the evening he had been caught on company CCTV having 'five schnuggs and a shag'. The Gnome gently suggested the possibility that 'schnugg' might have been misheard and could the word have been 'snog'?

"Yeah, that's it. Five snogs and a shag... Are they some sort of English drink?"

The Gnome didn't have the heart to explain and can only hope when next visiting London she doesn't try asking for something similar at the local watering hole.

He looks forward to getting hold of a copy of the appropriate CCTV tapes however...

The Man in Orange and Other Animals

The Gnome's apartment overlooks an office block where workers are still visible through the windows when he returns in the evening. He is unsure whether this means they are harder working and more successful than him, or are sad, lonely individuals who have no reason to go home, but either way he cannot help but study them - the human equivalent of the ant farms advertised in comics during his childhood.

When studying any community, one individual often lifts themselves above the crowd - primus inter pares. Such an individual is Orange Man.

All seems normal during working hours. He works at a desk, interacts with colleagues, uses the phone. However as the time to depart draws near, he prepares for the outdoors - and this is where his individuality vividly expresses itself. He always wears something orange. Bright orange. Almost fluorescent orange.

One day a scarf, the next gloves, occasionally a coat, but never once does he leave without some form of orange motif. If none of his outdoor apparel is orange, he has an orange bag, slung nonchalantly over his shoulder as he leaves for the night.


Is he a Dutch football supporter? Does he have an interest in the politics of Northern Ireland and wishes to declare his allegience to Ian Paisley and the DUP? Did he misunderstand his doctor's advice on ensuring sufficient daily vitamin C when he said try an orange each day?

The Gnome will follow this subject with interest and report any new findings. Perhaps he will also comment on some of the other animals he can see from his apartment window. By no means does he wish to be thought of as a voyeur, but the lure of other peoples' lives seen from afar has a strange fascination...

Wednesday, January 4

Water Cooler Conversation

A colleague said she had a watercooler conversation about the TV show 'Lost' this morning.

The Gnome went in for a glass of water later and mentioned how achingly beautiful Evangeline Lilly is, but it didn't respond. Perhaps it's shy around new people.

Hermetic Society

On one of the Gnome's regular strolls around his Manhattan neighbourhood he came across a doorway proclaiming to lead into the Hermetic Society.

Although not having the slightest idea of what the society is or what it contributes to the world at large, he can't help wondering whether their seal of office is considered airtight...

Cash in the Attic

The Gnome thought that BBC America would be a lifeline of British TV whilst here in Manhattan. A way to keep up to date with the innovative programme development for which British TV is rightly famous.

Instead there seems to be a constant diet of all those programmes that act as schedule filler - cheap to make, presented by non-entities and of no real artistic value. So enamoured are BBC America of these programmes that they don't just show one a day - oh no. They have whole days devoted to Changing Rooms, What Not to Wear, House Invaders and the Gnome's personal bug bear Cash in the Attic.

For those that haven't had the pleasure, Cash in the Attic sends antique experts to peoples' homes and gets them to auction off heirlooms for piddling sums of money. One participant was told his would make the princely sum of £235 - and everyone seemed terribly exicted about it.

The only hope for this programme is the possibility of out-takes. Surely somewhere in the archives there is a scene where Mr Dull brings in Granny's prized lacework quilt, handed reverently down through the generations and the expert says 'No, that's shit - won't fetch a penny'. Now that would be entertainment...

Tuesday, January 3

Late Night Psychic

The Gnome loves Manhattan for many reasons, one of which is the 24 hour culture. Although he cannot remember a time when he's actually done so, the ability to purchase a television, get his shirts ironed or visit a chiropracter in the early hours of the morning is something that, like opera, is nice to know is there should he need it.

The opportunity offered to visit a psychic ('palmistry, tarot and crystal ball') in the pre-dawn hours though is one which confuses him. For surely you have to be drunker than an English football player the night before an important World Cup qualifying match to visit a psychic at 3 am?

What could she tell him? That within her crystal ball she sees a sore head in the morning? That his life line suggests him lying face down in a gutter in a pool of his own vomit in the near future? That the cards suggest he may find himself buying a kebab sometime soon?

Actually, the latter would not be possible, not in the true English sense of a chilli sauce-drenched kebab anyway. For New York does not stoop to such monstrosities when it comes to their food. A kebab in Manhattan, even one prepared by a street vendor catering for the post-psychic crowd, would be a culinary delight of real meat, freshly cooked.

First Snowfall

It fluttered with snow today, the first time this year. Just a few wet flakes, but no doubt the harbinger of more severe and prolonged falls later this month.

One of the Gnome's employees looked out of his window and commented that the larger the snowflake, the less likely it is to snow for long.

Is this true he wonders? His interest now piqued - a throwback to his training as a scientist no doubt - he intends to study this theory as the flakes drift pass the office and let the world know of his findings.

New Year's Eve Folly

The Gnome wanted to do the Times Square thing for New Year as it is unlikely he'll be around next year. Unfortunately, he was put off by inclement weather, unlike 750 000 other people who stood in the cold rain for up to 5 hours for the dubious pleasure of watching a luminescent ball drop 20 feet.

The Gnome's newsagent summed it up nicely. "Stand out in this cold and ya need to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes and how ya goin' to do that with all those people?"

A wise man, albeit one who obviously has specific urinary issues...

Monday, January 2

Life of a Gnome

The Gnome is not one for New Year's Resolutions generally. It only depresses him when, one by one, they fall by the wayside and spend the rest of the year looking at him reproachfully.

Starting a blog though felt more like a pleasure than a chore. So much easier than losing weight, stopping smoking, or any other number of failures waiting to happen. But what to cover? Would anyone really care about the life of an English gnome in Manhattan? Probably not, but that has not stopped anybody else - as a cursory glance over other blogs will quickly prove.

Perhaps the Gnome will get some posts and comments on his musings? He admits to looking forward to his very first comment - whatever it may say. Perhaps, like losing his virginity, it will be somewhat underwhelming, but offer the hope of better things to come. Perhaps, like the first time he heard an Erroll Garner solo, it will be an unassailed delight.