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.