Wednesday, October 17

Physician heal thyself

So, once again the Gnome is spending his working days discussing and writing about bowel disease at an international medical conference.

For many physicians of course, conferences are a good excuse to get away from the family to play golf, go shopping, or sleep with attractive young pharmaceutical sales reps.

Others though do actually contribute to our global scientific knowledge by publishing short abstracts on their clinical work. These abstracts are then collated into a very large book (with a very small font) designed specifically so the Gnome can experience both eye strain and headaches from trying to pick out those of genuine scientific interest.

One does occasionally come across an unintentional bit of humour to lighten the mood. An abstract presented here in Philadelphia described patients who took a drug but had a bad reaction to it. The Gnome assumes the author meant to say '10% of patients were were unable to tolerate the treatment', but what was written was '10% of patients were intolerable'.

The Gnome knows lots of doctors, and he bets every single one would say that percentage was way too low...

Fighting tooth and claw

Why do Americans have a thing about British dentistry? Actually the Gnome knows the answer to that and is ashamed to say he generally agrees with their logic. For to be born an Englishman may be, as Rudyard Kipling once wrote, 'to win first prize in the lottery of life' but unfortunately little of that windfall is spent on straightening teeth.

Even poor old Prince Charles, who presumably has no need to queue for hours with the masses in the hope of getting into an NHS practice, is known in the US as a man for whom teeth were, are, and forever will be, something used only to chew food. This is not the American way. For here teeth are a status symbol. Each one must be polished, whitened, straightened and capped until capable of taking their rightful place among their equally stylish neighbours.

An American smiling at you can be quite an unnerving experience. One is often drawn to the teeth, their shiny, glowing whiteness reminiscent of Hollywood portrayals of the gates to heaven.

As an aside, why is heaven always assumed to be a place of glowing white light? Has the Almighty no concept of colour? Presumably all interior designers go straight to hell, spending their time with Lucifer discussing how to update the torture chambers with accented use of colours such as Firestorm Red and Sulphorous Yellow...

Sorry. The Gnome is a little tired and his mind can wander under such circumstance. Back to teeth. The Gnome has returned to Philadelphia this week (no cheesesteaks or roadkill yet though...) and met a new client who had just such a smile. His first words were:

'Hey there Gnome, nice to meet you at last. Your teeth are good for an Englishman...'

The Gnome's response was, in his own humble opinion, not a bad one - although potentially damaging to his future work prospects.

'Pleased to meet you too. You're quite slim for an American...'

Fifteen all, new balls please!

Monday, September 17

Copywriting Disaster

When the Gnome was a young pup entering the exciting world of the advertising for the first time, he was shown to his desk by a character straight out of Dickens. Tall, thin and with half moon glasses perched upon a beak-like nose, this ghost of copywriters past introduced himself as 'Howard MacMahon esquire' and on arrival at the Gnome's new office, promptly sneered at the computer waiting on the desk by saying 'when I started here all that was on my desk were two pencils and a rubber'.

With the insoucience of youth, the Gnome laughingly suggested this comment immediately confirmed all the rumours he'd heard about girls who work in PR. Howard MacMahon esquire, unmoved to levity by this humourous quip sighed deeply and pointed towards the bookcase adjoining the Gnome's new desk. There, sitting alone on the dusty shelves was a dog-eared yellow paperback, its pages browned from the sunlight seeping across the windowsill.

"This book is Fowler's Modern English Useage. I know you won't read it, nor probably use the wisdom contained within it, but at least you have access to it." And with that he retired from the room to be seen again only rarely, his appearances limited to the impending arrival of a crisis, just like Harry Seldon in the Foundation books.

As it happens the Gnome did read Fowler's, and although he probably doesn't use the wisdom contained within it every day, or in every piece of writing, he has a penchant for its stuffy put-downs for those who mangle the Queen's English.

Which brings us to this advert, presumably written by someone without the unfettered access to Modern English Useage the Gnome so enjoyed in his youth.

Is anything right with it? Let's start at the top.


Why the extra punctuation of the comma? That's just plain wrong. As is the word order... Wouldn't 'see it, report it, stop it' be more appropriate? How can you stop it before you've seen it? And surely there are Health and Safety implications for encouraging passengers to become 'have-a-go heroes' with the suggestion they stop it before reporting it to the authorities?

Violence towards both passengers and members of staff will not be tolerated

Well that's good to know if you are a young hoodie looking for a little recreational violence. So long as you target only one group, be it staff or passengers, tolerance of your actions will be the reward. It's only when you behave thuggishly towards BOTH passengers and staff need you worry. One assumes 'violence towards either passengers or members of staff will not be tolerated' was the intended message, but who can tell?

Help us to stop it. Report it. call British Transport police on....

Surely even the doziest of proofreaders, somnolent at their desk on a Friday afternoon after a long liquid lunch knows that a capital letter is needed to start a new sentence?

Oh how Howard MacMahon esquire, would have shuddered if this advert had left his office. The Gnome can see the old man twirling in his grave now. Perhaps by highlighting this abhorrence to the wider world he will forgive the Gnome the use of the word 'penchant' earlier in the piece. As H.W. Folwer clearly states, and Howard MacMahon esquire would no doubt agree,

"To say penchant for liking or fancy is pretension and nothing else."

Monday, September 10

An Office Moment

As part of the Gnome's freelance occupation (i.e. any job will do), he was recently the hired help arranging a meeting for a large public sector organisation. He took it, in part, for the opportunity to meet fellow non-humans - it was for the elf service - but disappointingly none turned up (although given the appearance of certain delegates he cannot be 100% certain no trolls or orcs circumvented the invitation process...)

All was redeemed though by a moment of lunacy that would not have been out of place in a script from 'The Office'.

One of the Gnome's temporary work colleagues was looking over the laminated delegate name badges so beloved of meeting organisers when he stopped and picked one up, examining it in what can only be oxymoronically described as insipid excitement.

He nodded sagely and said 'If this person doesn't turn up I will take this badge back for my colleague..."

The Gnome looked over his shoulder and replied, "Is he called Brian Jameson then?", under the natural assumption he would be similarly named to the missing delegate.

"No... he just likes badges."

Oh, how the working hours must just fly past in such a thrill seeking workplace as that.

"Alone at last Miss Søderstrøm"

The Gnome was telling someone about his favourite cartoon the other day. It was by Ed McLachlan, a regular contributor to the now defunct Punch magazine, although you can still see his work (and the Gnome recommends you do) in various publications to this day.

So enthusiastic was the Gnome about this cartoon, a framed print was presented to him on his birthday by his work colleagues. Now the thing is, the joke in itself isn’t that funny, but it took the Gnome so damned long to work it out, it has stuck with him ever since.

The set up is simple. In a small rowing boat close to shore, a Swedish man is approaching a Swedish woman, lips puckered with amorous intent. Now the Gnome immediately hears you ask how their nationality can be ascertained so exactly. Is there some graphical technique immediately bringing into mind Swedish folk? Is the boat a Volvo? Does it have several unused screws and a small ‘L’-shaped piece of metal with holes in it left over in the gunwales suggesting it was self assembled from an IKEA kit? No. The alleged Swedishness of the occupants was neatly handled with a little linguistic stereotyping in the caption

“Alone at last Miss Søderstrøm…”

So what’s funny? Exactly what the Gnome thought. He looked at the boat again, checked the fine detail of the occupants and all he could see was a lecherous Swede about to have his wicked way.

It was only after about 5 minutes his eyes moved to the shoreline where, high up on the cliff, hundreds of lemmings were about to interrupt this passionate scene with their suicide leap.

Childish perhaps, but it tickled the Gnome mightily, particularly after missing the joke for so long. Anyway, the reason for this rambling introduction is to ask a question… What is the collective noun for lemmings? When explaining the cartoon to his colleague the Gnome realised he had no idea and had to fall back on the use of ‘a herd of lemmings’ to explain what was hurtling towards the edge of the cliff.

A quick search on the internet shows even the Oxford English Dictionary has no answer, although one should expect to hear the Gnome use the phrase ‘a bellowing of bullfinches’ or ‘a psittacosis of parrots’ at the earliest opportunity…

Another overheard conversation

They keep coming! And the Gnome loves them... Overheard in a gym, this one was worthy of an Alan Bennett script.

Two lancastrian ladies of a certain age, immaculately attired in flourescent leotards so reminiscent of the 1980s were rocking up and down on one of those abdominal exercisers when the following pearl of wisdom was produced.

"I haven't managed to drink a cup of tea for ages. I think it is something to do with the menopause..."


Sunday, September 9


A long time ago, deep in the Gnome's childhood, he would often hear the word 'wireless' used when what the adults should have said was 'radio'. This always amused the Gnome, listening to those old people (some of them were as old as 35 or even [God forbid] 40...) use such an outdated word.

It was as though they couldn't or wouldn't admit technology had moved forward, and with it the associated terminology.

Now he is of the same age as they were all those years ago, he records TV programmes via his Sky Plus / TiVo hard drive thinking to himself 'Hmmm... Must remember to video that...'

Plus ça change...

Thursday, September 6

Not Lost Any More

Amazing what you can find when Yahoo Pictures insists you move your collection to Flickr.

Here is the 'please do not shove a golf club up your dog's arse' sign the Gnome told you about many months ago.


The Gnome's Sporting Triumph

The smell of leather, the sound of balls being hit, and a ripple of applause from an intently watching crowd. What else could those sensations signify except that most English of summer pastimes?

Mrs Gnome, looking over one's shoulder has suggested a somewhat disturbing answer, but she is incorrect. The Gnome was referring not to sadomasochistic bondage parties but cricket. Honestly... One does occasionally wonder about her youthful past as Miss Pixie when these sort of comments are voiced...

Anyway, cricket. That most glorious of games, where one can spend five days lazily watching the bees pollinate flowers, declare the game a draw and claim you have participated in enough exercise to keep the government's health watchdogs at bay. In fact, fielding on the fine leg boundry is one of the few places left where a gentleman may enjoy a cigar without interference from the constabulary.

For some reason, the Gnome was recently thinking of one of his most memorable cricketing experience - the day he scored a century at Lords. Yes, it's true. A century. At Lords. 100 runs (actually 112 all told before a slightly dodgy lbw decision [is there any other kind?] cut short his innings).

Each one a treasured memory. The ball fizzing through the covers from a Ted Dexter-like drive, a seemingly lazy Gower-esque flick of the wrists to send the ball to deep square leg, a vicious hook à la Botham clearing the midwicket boundry. Ah... a wonderful day.

Of course, when the Gnome says this all happened at Lords he might have been a little disingenuous. It was Lords, yes. Arthur Lords. They were the car showroom sponsoring the ground.

Hey come on... it was still a century, and a Gnome can dream can't he?

Monday, September 3

Locked out of his own Blog!

Hello dear readers...

Once again, the months have flown past without so much as a jot from the Gnome. He can only imagine the gnashing of teeth, soulful wailing and desperation in your lives that his absence has caused.

He is not however entirely to blame for the abandonment. For some reason Blogger insisted on a change to a Google Mail account and with it all access was denied. Even the Gnome's precious map of his readers was reset to a blank page (come back you blogger in Montivideo - the Gnome needs to know you still care!)

Passwords have always been a simple matter to the Gnome. He has two. He has only ever had two. Those two passwords, if ever revealed to the world, would allow his entire life to be hijacked and used for nefarious purposes. Not a secure way of doing things admittedly, but a simple one. But no matter how many times times those two words were typed into the appropriate boxes, the dreaded 'password incorrect' box appeared. Something was wrong and in disgust the Gnome gave up and left the World bereft of his cogitations.

On calmer reflection though, it has become clear this is unsatisfactory. How would Santiago feel with no news of Gnome Dog (she's fine...)? Would Tasmania cope not knowing what the Mrs Gnome was up to (the Gnome has not let her order a martini since 'that incident', but otherwise okay)? Could the recent Manchester earthquake be partly attributed to a million Mancunians stamping their feet in unison demanding the return of the Gnome?

So, with a flurry of technological achievements, the Gnome retrieved his password and is back. The trouble is, it was insisted upon that the password be changed before letting him back, which means there is now a third password to remember in the Gnome household. This could be beyond even the Gnome's great powers of memory.

If he disappears again, then you will know why!

Monday, April 2

Explanations on a Postcard

The Gnome likes weird signs. He did once take a picture of a sign for you, dear readers, which seemed to imply that it was illegal to place a golf club up a dog's backside, but alas it has been lost from the archives.

At least that one had some words attached to explain its true meaning (no pooping in the street apparently...), whereas this one, spotted at a petrol station just outside Brighton, was apparently thought not to require any explanation.

To the Gnome it provides the timely warning 'Do not attempt to tow away the petrol pump', but does anyone out there know better?

A Fishy Tale

Seeing as the Gnome is introducing new characters, he supposes he should present to the world the latest additions to the Gnome household – Gnome Fish 1 and Gnome Fish 2.

Bought by Mrs Gnome to provide some cheer in the Gnome’s office, they became an instant hit with Gnome Cat 1, who happily spends the working day watching as they tease him with coquettish flicks of the fins.

In fact, Gnome Cat 1 and the Gnome sometimes stare in tandem; Gnome Cat at the fish, and the Gnome at his computer screen, willing it to spew forth an offer of work to reinvigorate his finances.

The Gnome knows there is only a picture of one fish here, but come on - seen one fish, even a Gnome Fish, and you've seen them all...

Eating Well in Philadelphia

There is no excuse for going hungry in Philadelphia – it is a town with a reputation for excess in the eating department. What other town could come up with a signature dish as the Philly Cheesesteak – a delicious yet fattening combination of fried beef smothered in melted cheese shoved together in a 12 inch bun?

Not that the Philly Cheesesteak is by any means an expensive dish – it is available in various outlets for a relative pittance, but it occurred to the Gnome there is an even easier and cheaper way of eating well in the city of Brotherly Love.

Venison was a dish prized by the populace in the Middle Ages. Indeed, the poaching of deer in England was considered such a personal affront to the King it was punishable by a goodly period in the stocks, allowing the locals to participate in one of the first recorded government policies on the environment – namely the recycling of old fruit.

If you know where to look though, venison can be found for free in Philly. Admittedly it is in what can only be called an ‘organic’ state, as it is scattered along the train track from the airport to the city centre. The Gnome saw four deer carcasses, perfectly preserved in the cold winter weather, all of whom had suffered an ill-fated encounter with an oncoming train.

A gentle stroll along the tracks each morning would provide enough venison to feed a family every night, and what is more the walk would help burn off the Cheesesteak you had for breakfast…

Train Toilet Tends Towards Taste Tragedy

On the Amtrak train between Philadelphia and NYC, the Gnome was caught short. There was little alternative but to pay a visit to the train’s toilet, a journey that even in one’s own country is not exactly to be welcomed with open arms, but in another country, even one as evidently civilised as the USA, must be faced with not a little trepidation.

As it happened, all was well with the general cleanliness and despite not having an electronic hand dryer which I could take a photo of to bore you all, the whole experience was perfectly pleasant. Apart from the décor.

You wouldn’t think there would be much to do for a train toilet interior designer. It is not generally an area noted for its flamboyant use of colour and design. Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen is not noted for his conversion of the humble lavatory into a feast of Louis XIII decadence, complete with heavy velvet drapes and ormolu clocks.

With this toilet though there had been just such an attempt. Recreating a pattern not seen since the Gnome last wore pajamas at the tender age of eight, the walls were wallpapered in a psychedelic maroon and purple paisley pattern that assaulted the eye.

Lunacy in the Aisles

The Gnome would love to claim this story as his own experience, but has to give credit where credit is due. Like all long-running sagas, it is important to occasionally bring in fresh characters to keep the readers interested so please be introduced to the never previously blogged character of Father-in-law Gnome and his recent experience in a Yorkshire supermarket.

Perusing the vegetables (although the Gnome is sure his true thoughts were with the puddings in the next aisle) an elderly, wild-eyed man approached him and waved a vegetable in front of his face.

To Father-in-law Gnome’s astonishment he shouted out in a voice loud enough to be heard the other side of the Pennines…

“They have the nerve to call this a carrot? My f**cking dick is bigger than this…”

He then walked off, apparently satisfied his complaint had been registered by the proper authorities.

What was truly bewildering about the incident though was that the vegetable he had been waving about so aggressively was in fact an aubergine, which makes the Gnome wonder whether all the stories he has heard about Yorkshire inbreeding are quite so exaggerated after all…

The Blow Off Hog

Was it Mark Twain who suggested America and England were ‘two great nations separated by a common language’? This little piece of bus shelter advertising certainly seems to bear the theory out.

What self-respecting UK-based copywriter would come up with the picture and slogan shown here? And what self-respecting English lady would be prepared to take on the challenge of ‘blowing off’ the less than attractive energy hog pictured? Any takers? If there are, please post the ensuing video on YouTube and send the Gnome the link.

Monday, March 12

A Load of Hot Air

Climate change may bring future catastrophes, wars may ravage the globe and Noel Edmonds may still be on TV – but these global issues are not problems that unduly concern the Gnome. It is the little irritations that matter, the ones seemingly designed to make life just a little bit more unpleasant than it needs to be.

Hand dryers are one such source of such annoyment to the Gnome. It seems a fair proportion of his life is spent in public places with his hands awash with cold water and a veneer of impossible to remove stickyness left over from the hunk of unreconstructed whale blubber the toilet's owner laughingly refers to as soap. In such a situation he looks to the hand dryer to release him from the misery and quickly and efficiently dry his hands.

So often he is disappointed. A draught of tepid air emanates from the machine, wafting a few dust motes lazily around in its wake and singularly making no impression on his wet hands. As if to make things worse these machines have no on/off button, but rely on one's hands being placed at a trigonomically accurate position, only achievable by tapping into a GPS location service.

Why not join the Gnome in a ‘name and shame’ campaign? Let us deride the bad whilst celebrating the good. Let me introduce you to the hand dryer in the Winter Gardens, Weston-Super-Mare… If you are ever in the vicinity, pop in to the gents and make its acquaintance. The World Dryer Corporation, Berkeley Illinois. Model A548, serial number 161287 – a fine example of precision drying. Hot air, a decent amount of time for each push of the button, all in all an excellent service. Thanks you World Dryer Corporation – you have excelled yourself.

In contrast, a black mark must be placed against Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin trains. Now, the Gnome recognises that hand dryer facilities on trains (even in First Class which is of course the only way the Gnome is prepared to travel) are always likely to suffer from space constraints. But is there any excuse for moving to the combined washing system, first pioneered by fast food outlets of the ilk of McDonalds? These machines are truly the spawn of the devil, proving the old adage that a jack-of-all trades can be master of none. Not one single part of their raison d’etre is performed well.

Water that trickles out of the tap so limply it appears to be defying gravity, a soap dispenser seemingly designed to ensure the miniscule globule of soap provided drops into the basin without ever once coming into contact with your outstretched hands and a hand dryer inspiring a degree of loathing from the Gnome generally reserved only for Tara Palmer Tompkinson.

The Gnome has felt more warm breath from an imaginary wood nymph in a particularly interesting 'Lord of the Rings' inspired wet dream than that provided by Virgin rail equipment. Shame on you Sir Richard - all this mucking about trying to save the environment will do you no good when you find the Gnome presiding over your personal judgement day.

Does my bum look big in this?

The Gnome cannot be described as svelte… Nor, he hastens to add, fat. Neither would be strictly accurate. He is however willing to accept he is succumbing to a soon-to-be middle aged state of pleasantly plump.

Perhaps subconsciously aiming to add to this plumpness, he wandered into a New York branch of a well known burger joint looking to get a quick fix of monosodium glutamate and caffeine. Asking the server for his order, she looked him up and down and refused point blank to hand him the Diet Coke he had asked for.

“I ain’t serving you no Diet Coke honey”, she drawled in an accent that would not have been out of place in a remake of ‘A Bronx Tale’. The Gnome started. Even after a couple of years of living in Manhattan the English accent occasionally confused members of the proletariat, but comprehension did not seem to be at the root of this particular problem. Far from misunderstanding the order, the lady was simply refusing to fill it. Exceptional customer service being such an integral facet of New York life, the Gnome felt there must have been a reason for her recalcitrance and could think only of one explanation.

Spreading his overcoat to allow her to get a better look at the Gnome in all his glory, he looked her in the eye, smiled and suggested that of course she wouldn’t. Given the trim physique in front of her it was understandable she should refuse to serve a diet Coke, under the natural assumption he needed the full fat lardy variety to encourage the extra padding needed to withstand the ravages of a particularly cold New York winter's day.

She looked back pityingly, and with no trace of humour pointed across the counter and replied.

“No... That ain’t the reason. I just serve food. You pick up the drink over there…”

Wednesday, February 14

Valentine's Day Survival Technique

Once again the spectre that is St Valentine's Day is upon us, and with it the dilemma faced by all who, like the Gnome, combine a romantic nature with an unparalleled ability for forgetfullness.

In other words, what can one do when faced by a spouse, eyebrow raised and rolling pin in hand, when she (or he) broaches the subject of a noticeable absence of love tokens?

The Gnome cannot be alone in facing this thorny problem, and therefore feels obliged to pass on a little of his hard-earned Gnome wisdom...

This morning every newspaper will carry at least two pages of extremely small font messages declaring love of all kinds. Unless you are unlucky enough to be the paramour of someone whose initials would score more than 18 points at scrabble, the chances are you will find a suitable message that can be co-opted to your advantage.

Admittedly you may have to face the ignominy of a signature line suggesting you felt 'Fluffy Nuts' or 'Chubby Wubby' an appropriate sobriquet when making a public declaration of your love, but surely that is a price worth paying for domestic harmony on this day of all days?

A pint? A pint?!

Gnome dog is keen on spreading happiness to others. No person or animal can she see without an immediate reaction of unbridled joy, coupled with the desire to bestow upon them the sort of wet, slavering kisses normally only endured by favoured nephews of elderly Great Aunts (and of this experience the Gnome can speak with some authority...)

So, perhaps Gnome dog should be signed up for this little programme? Of course, she will need assurance that after her act of canine altruism is complete, there will be water and Bonios in compensation, not to mention the sympathetic attention of a young veterinary nurse to aid her recovery.

Now the Gnome likes to think he has imbued Gnome dog with a sense of comedy history and is convinced when faced with the vet's assurances of how little blood is actually going to be removed she will draw on the wise words of Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock and say...

"A pint? A pint?...but that's nearly a paw full!"

Thursday, February 8

A Quick Plug

Not a plug you will find in the bath, but a little reciprocation to the folks over at Bobbarama's Carnival of Humor who very kindly selected one of the Gnome's pieces for inclusion in this month's edition.

Do yourself a favour... wander over there and look through the other posts, but don't enjoy them too much - the Gnome doesn't want you deserting him completely!

The Slightly Off Odour of the Greasepaint and the Quiet Murmurs of the Crowd

Writing about his brief foray into the unaccustomed role of artistic consultant started the Gnome reminiscing about his early years on the stage. The word ‘years’ may be pushing the boundaries a little, but to deftly conceal the reality of a few amateur dramatic performances as a teenager it seemed an appropriate tool.

Be that as it may, he still fondly remembers the triumph of his ‘Dame Fanny Faceache’ – a role in a local pantomime at the age of 17 for which he received a newspaper review that remains with him to this day…“The Gnome portrayed the vital comedy part of the Dame with a maturity beyond his years.”

To receive such a glowing notice from the Spalding Guardian – as prestigious an organ of the fourth estate as one could imagine – led to a somewhat inflated self image for several weeks afterwards. Demands for private jets, a coterie of bodyguards and the delivery of hard drink and soft drugs to his teenage bedroom produced some disquiet in the wider Gnome household.

Alas, despite further triumph as ‘Wally Dott’, retarded brother of Jack in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ the following year (“The Gnome got the audience laughing heartily with his slapstick routines and appalling puns” – The Holbeach Herald) the roar of the crowd’s approval soon faded and the Gnome travelled a more orthodox career path.

There was however one later incident that appeared to confirm the Gnome’s destiny lay as an international celebrity. In the unlikely setting of a doctor’s waiting room a fellow patient – a lady who must have been well into her eighties – saw him walk past and delivered a stage whisper to her husband to the effect of, “There’s that actor chap from the panto.”

Oh how the Gnome preened – his illness forgotten in the warm glow of adulation from his adoring public…

You’re going down, you slag…!

Ah, the British Bobby on the beat – a symbol of all that is reassuring about England. Calm, cheerful and approachable – just like the faces the Gnome saw on this poster in London. Look at them – the perfect examples of modern law enforcement as our political leaders would have us see them. The distant echo of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ lives on in their multicultural faces.

Crossing the road near the Houses of Parliament yesterday, the Gnome witnessed a scene he felt was more in tune with the reality of crime in the modern capital city. An unmarked police car – its temporary blue light strobing upon the roof, the siren’s banshee-like wailing rending the genteel air of the House of Commons lawn – hurtled through the early evening traffic towards him.

Trying to take the turn onto Victoria Embankment, it was forced to screech to a near stop as it came up behind a post office delivery van, serenely making its way towards a rendezvous with a post box.

Inside the car, the undercover detective was the personification of urban grit. Wearing a stained football shirt, chin sprouting a carefully cultivated growth of stubble, he had a wild-eyed look of anger. A look one normally only associates with a journalist whose expenses have been questioned.

Half leaning out of the window, he suggested in no uncertain terms that it might be in everyone’s best interests if Postman Pat pulled over to let him past. When this advice was not acted on with any particular show of haste, it was followed up by an expletive-filled torrent suggesting the recalcitrant driver lacked not only 20/20 vision, driving skills and a full set of intellectual faculties, but was quite possibly of illegitimate birth.

What capped the scene was the lighted cigarette the detective had in hand throughout the exchange. Sporting a long line of ash, precariously balanced and which somehow managed to defy both gravitational and centrifugal forces, it completed an image of undercover coppery the Gnome will not lightly forget.

If by chance you are reading this and recognise yourself as that police driver, then the Gnome salutes you. You are upholding the equally British law enforcement tradition of the snarling copper, racing to a date with destiny against the forces of injustice. DCI Regan would be proud of you… ‘Ave it!

The Wiles of the Countryside

The Gnome lives in the countryside, surrounded by acres of sheep pasture and gentle meadows. It is an area with a long history. Next door to the Gnome’s abode is an Elizabethan farmhouse, protected by government decree from modern development for its intricately carved wood panels.

It is strange to think at a time when Shakespeare was chewing his pencil thinking up ways to make Hamlet descend even further into madness, or Sir Francis Drake was making a career decision between the Royal Navy or a professional bowls player that some poor Elizabethan farmer was being badgered by his wife into redecorating the living room.

Like all true men he would have resisted for as long as he could, but eventually the wood panelling would have been installed as demanded and domestic harmony restored. Maybe it would have been of some comfort to him to know that no further redecoration would be undertaken for the next 400 years or so.

Earlier, on the farmhouse site, stood a Norman watchtower. Erected by William I’s troops in the years after the 1066 conquest, it served to guard against marauding Scots making day trips down south for a little raping, pillaging and shopping. Before that, Romans stopped off in the area on the way to garrison duty on nearby Hadrian’s Wall.

Given this history, you can understand the area holds interest for metal detectors. The thought of unearthing an Elizabethan doubloon or Roman coin is a great draw.

And so it was the Gnome woke up one bright crisp morning to see a lonely figure, ears covered by huge ‘cans’, trawling through the undergrowth of the field opposite. One could almost sense his excitement as he searched for a contact, rather like the sailors in wartime films, listening intently to the ping of the ASDIC as they hunt down a threatening U-boat.

When the Gnome bumped into the farmer who owned the land and asked whether he knew what was going on, he was told permission had been granted in exchange for the very reasonable fee of a bottle of 15 year old single malt.

“I wonder if he’ll find anything?” the Gnome wondered out loud, to which the reply, given with a wry smile, was…

“I doubt it. Somebody else gave me another bottle of scotch only last month to do exactly the same thing…”

Tuesday, February 6

“Something for the Weekend, sir? Would you prefer Matt or Gloss?”

It may be a cliché of countryside living, but clichés only become so by dint of accuracy. So it was that the Gnome was leaning on a five barred gate chatting to a local farmer. Alas the image you now have is slightly incomplete in that he was not chewing languidly on an ear of corn, nor wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches at the elbows. But still, as an image of rural idyll, it would be hard to better.

What do you think the Gnome and friend were discussing as they gazed out over the rolling pastures, sheep dotted about on the horizon? The price of lamb, perhaps? Tony Blair’s disregard for countryside traditions? How to turn red diesel into a useable form for your personal car and therefore avoid paying the duty? (A pair of used stockings and activated charcoal if you must know...)

Well actually, we were discussing sex toys.

Somebody once told the Gnome that farming was basically all about sex, but he never expected to have such a conversation with an aging farmer. What was particularly amusing though was the opening line into discussing them…

I see that the Asda has started selling those Dulux Sensations Cock Rings.”

A phrase that suggested next to the products in question would be sample colour strips so one could accessorise according to your bedroom colour scheme… 'Changing Rooms' should come to the countryside occasionaly - could make for interesting viewing...

P.S. The Gnome knows many of his readers are of a conservative nature, lacking the worldly-wise insouciance of the Gnome himself. Given that, you will just have to take his word when he tells you the photo is indeed a cock ring.

Thursday, February 1

Bowling the Maidens Over

The Gnome was flicking through ‘The Scotsman’ on the train home last night and read about a recent poll of the World’s 100 Sexiest Men. Not a topic he is particularly drawn to, but naturally he felt obliged to check his ranking in the grand scheme of things. After a thorough examination he can only presume his position remains unchanged at number 101.

Two things struck him though, the first being cricketer Mark Ramprakash’s entry at number 51. An unsurprising result given his wider exposure to the female public after winning ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ for if the Gnome’s female companions past and present are anything to go by, he does appear to have an effect on the ladies.

The Gnome has tried to introduce any number of paramours to the glories of cricket, but has found them completely unmoved by a cunningly disguised Shane Warne flipper or a David Gower cover drive. However, as soon as he points out Ramps things change. Although introduced as an exquisite exponent of the square cut, they seem more attracted to the square jaw. An unhealthy interest in his fine legs follows and then… well let us leave it there before we are drawn unerringly towards discussing his third man.

Enough of this – Mrs Gnome will be drooling over the computer if she senses Ramprakash’s picture being uploaded. That would make the keyboard slimy and difficult to use and the Gnome still has to get to his second point.

Scanning the list, the Gnome’s eye was caught by number 81 and the caption that read ‘David Walliams, bottom’. The Gnome thought this was a little unfair – after all nobody else had a specific body part picked out. It was only on re-reading the paper (it was a long train journey…) he realised it referred to the position of the accompanying picture, not his backside.

Monday, January 29

The Sands of Time

The Gnome’s experience of the performing arts is limited to trips to the RSC and the occasional visit to the ballet. The latter is entirely at the behest of Mrs Gnome, and is a visit to be endured rather than enjoyed. He finds ballet dancers distract him from listening to the band – particularly as the sound of all those feet thumping across the stage recalls the wildebeest migration across the Serengeti.

Still, a love of the arts is a sign of a cultured man and it was therefore not an unpleasant experience for the Gnome to find himself in the impromptu role of theatrical consultant to a West Country seaside resort.

Exactly how this situation arose is far too complicated to explain, but an offer of free tea and digestive biscuits was involved. There was a time when nothing less than a chocolate hob-nob was expected in exchange for his time and expertise, but now freelance, no biscuit-related offer can be dismissed. With control of one’s destiny must come sacrifice…

The artistic brief was to create a new summer spectacular, the current version looking tired and past its sell-by date. Given the average age of visitors to the resort, the same could well be said for many of the potential audience.

The Gnome’s contribution to the process was limited – his suggestions of avant garde productions such as ‘Tin Mining on Ice’ and ‘Songs from the Fudge Production Industry’ meeting with blank stares and polite, but firm, shakes of the head.

What intrigued him though was a palpable feeling of time and history passing by. The original show was a forties night – all big bands and sounds of the Blitz. To have been in your twenties in 1940, and therefore at the age where music and happy memories are most likely to go hand in hand, means being at least eighty now. Few visitors of that era are capable of making the trek to a fading seaside resort.

The upshot was the new show would be ‘Songs from the Sixties’ – still chasing the grey pounds of the sixty plus demographic, just changing the era about which they come to reminisce.

It struck the Gnome that in only another 20 years he will be in this demographic. Forced to sit in a bath chair, knees covered by a tartan rug, will he appreciate the irony of a tribute act called ‘The Marmalade’ playing ‘Going Underground’ as his life ebbs away like the tide from Weston-Super-Mare?

Wednesday, January 24

Subscribe Now!

Here at Gnome Towers there is a realisation you do not wish to miss a single one of the Gnome's thoughts. What is more you want those thoughts available to you as soon as humanly (or gnomely) possible.

It is an understandable need, but has been impossible to fulfil... Until now.

The Gnome has arranged for a small box to be added to his blog into which you can place your e-mail address (also name and country of origin if you so desire) and, by the magic of a technology far beyond his luddite understanding, every time there is a new post you will be e-mailed a respectful invitation to view it at your leisure.

The Gnome's reputation as a gentleman should be more than enough to convince you your e-mail address is safe in his hands, but if not let him give you a personal assurance of no spam, no passing it on to any other source, and no trouble if you should later wish to unsubscribe.

Never let it be said the Gnome does not look after you all...

Little Britain Tourette’s

The Gnome recently discussed a TV programme on Tourette’s syndrome. In it the main character, a burly Scotsman, was seen interacting with passers by in that peculiar way of Tourette’s sufferers, namely pointing out their inadequacies in a stream of foul mouthed abuse or, most amusingly, shouting “I have a bomb” at wary security offices patrolling potential terrorist targets.

One might suggest this is normal behaviour for any Scotsman, not just one with Tourette’s, but there remained a nagging concern at the back of the Gnome’s consciousness and it is only now that he has realised what it was.

For as soon as this gentleman was interviewed, all semblance of Tourette’s disappeared and he became articulate, well spoken and coherent. It felt exactly like the Little Britain sketch in which a supposed mental patient could only vocalise the phrase ‘Ah, ah, aaah…’ until taking a mobile phone call whereupon a perfectly normal conversation ensued.

Is this life imitating art, or art imitating life?

Turning into one’s Father

It is a well recognised fact that as life progresses one turns into one’s father. There is a moment when every man sees the face of his father in the shaving mirror, where he realises the comfort of slippers outweighs their lack of fashionability and the sudden articulation around the dinner table that reimposition of National Service might not be such a bad idea after all.

Conveniently, the latter usually occurs around the age of 35, when you come to the conclusion that even in the direst national emergency, your military career will be restricted to Dad’s Army style patrolling of the local bakery armed only with a pitchfork.

For the Gnome however, it is not the physical metamorphoses that are concerning, but the mental ones. For many years the young Gnome was annoyed by his father’s propensity to take an instant dislike to random members of the media for no apparent reason. The Gnome family would be happily settled around the TV when the appearance of some poor innocent presenter would ignite the wrath of Father Gnome. “I can’t stand that Jimmy Tarbuck/Angela Rippon/Ulrika Johnson/Matthew Kelly” he would say, provoking the Gnome to take issue and suggest it was a little harsh to dismiss them so readily without meeting them.

But now, the Gnome fears he has fallen into the same habit. Some ‘personality’ (ostensibly one to whom we should feel warm and friendly) will come to the forefront of the national consciousness and the Gnome finds himself hating them for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, January 23

More Lift Conversations

The Gnome can’t seem to help himself when in lifts – they seem to be a veritable hotbed of interesting conversations. Today, in the lift of a large council building he heard the following alarming news… “The bollard situation has now become critical – there are some people in this council who are working against us.”

A critical bollard situation? What could that be? Too many? Too few? The wrong kind? Is there a government appointed bollard tzar handling this critical issue on our behalf? Can we expect a bollard hotline to be set up, similar to the much lamented cone hotline initiative by the failing Major government of 1997?

And who are the insurgent forces trying to overthrow the existing bollard hierarchy? Are they like the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars – freedom fighters against the current bollard hegemony?

So many questions remain unanswered – contact your local councillor now, but be careful. He may turn out to wear a black full face helmet and breathe heavily through a respirator.

Tuesday, January 16

Dontcha wish...

White transit vans are hostages to fate. They are destined to be driven with no concern for other road users, by someone with more tattoos than a sailor after a particularly alcohol-fuelled shore leave, and to spend their lives covered in a thin layer of dust, dirt and general traffic-emission soot.

Something about this patina of grime attracts people of a certain sensibility to use it as a canvas for self expression, perhaps looking on it in a similar way Jackson Pollock did a clean white surface. It cannot be left alone... Something must be inscribed upon it...

Ninenty-nine percent of the time the imagination of the artist dries up after writing 'clean me' in the dirt, but recently the Gnome saw a comment on a muck-encrusted vehicle that, ever the devotee of popular culture, caused him some amusement.

Paraphrased into the rear doors the graffitti asked the Pussycat Dolls' iconic question of 2006... 'Dontcha wish your girlfriend was dirty like me?'

Going Mad Organ by Organ

You'll be glad to know the Gnome is feeling better after his Christmas medical escapades. It may well have been the ward visit from Santa Claus that did it, or perhaps the scintillating conversation from one of his bed neighbours on the unfortunate effect Christmas cake had on his bowel movements, but either way parole was granted within the week.

Once in the system though, they are loathe to let you go completely free and the Gnome was told to see his local doctor for further blood tests. To help this process they kindly gave him a packet into which tubes of his precious life blood could be sent to the labs.

Detailing the tests required, the form also had a handwritten note explaining the reason for the test, a note which read 'deranged liver'.

Does this mean if the disease spreads the Gnome could additionally find himself with an unhinged kidney, an insane gall bladder and a demented lung?

Monday, January 15

Hairdressing with Tourette's

A wonderful documentary on the TV the other night about a group of teenage Tourette's sufferers on a trip to Paris to visit the hospital where their illness was first identified and categorised.

Tourette's sufferers are of course well known for their verbal tics and unfortunate habit of shouting out swear words, but by far the funniest moment for the Gnome came not from the barrage of 'fucks' and 'bastards' but from a comment delivered to a hospital professor giving a lecture.

The professor, a middle aged gentleman with what can only be described as a 'Bobby Charlton' haircut, was speaking on the history of the hospital and its link to Georges Albert Eduardo Brutus Gilles de la Tourette when from the back of the room came the damning comment...


Sunday, January 7

Alan Bennett (Part II)

Seeing as the Gnome teased you all with the mysterious addition of 'Part I' after his recent Alan Bennett post, he felt it appropriate to actually get round to writing up 'Part II'.

Whilst wandering in the vicinity of Leicester Square many years ago (so many years ago in fact that Mrs Gnome was still Miss Pixie) the Gnome was crossing a small road when he was disturbed from his neglectful reverie by the tinkling of an old fashioned bicycle bell.

Looking up, not fearful for his life exactly but concerned he was about to become an accident statistic, he saw the bike in question slowing down to go around him. As you have probably guessed (and if you haven't you should consider remedial education) the considerate cyclist was Alan Bennett.

The Gnome's double take on seeing such a luminary of the arts pedalling towards him must have been so comical that it caused Mr Bennett to grin widely - not something the Gnome expected, as on television he seems never to break into anything more than a wan or wry smile.

Tuesday, January 2

Vampire Triage

The Gnome spent Christmas in hospital. Don't feel too sorry - although not self inflicted it was just one of those things. An unfortunate ingestion of viral particles from some unseen and forgotten source having a rather unfortunate effect on the liver. The Gnome has discovered nothing quite dampens a party spirit like the projectile vomiting of bile...

Lying on a gurney on Cristmas Eve in the local A&E (equivalent to the ED for American readers) the Gnome was of course attended by several medical staff as time went on. There seemed to be a very precise hierarchy of visits, starting with the lowly (but charming) triage nurse and slowly working up to the full force of a senior consultant, with a few Housemen and Registrars in between.

All of them tended to ask the same things, but there was a wording change in one question that perked the Gnome up. Previous medics had inquired "Are your eyes sensitive to bright lights", but this one registrar (and the Gnome kids you not when he says the medic in question was from Eastern Europe with an accent to match) looked him straight in the eye and said "Do you shy from the light?"

At that moment, it felt only a matter of time before the crucifix and garlic came out...

One Year On

It is exactly a year since the Gnome took to the Blogosphere as part of an attempted New Year's Resolution. With an unfortunate, but understandable, hiatus during his move from the US to the UK, he is feeling relatively pleased with his commitment to the genre. Last year a total of 46 posts ranging from wet snow to homeless lunatics were committed to the ether and (since June anyway) read by 337 people from around the world.

He acknowledges these are not earthshattering numbers, but was never aiming to compete with Lily Allen or Sandi Thom in the number of hits. However, the Gnome knows he must do better this year, and promises his few (but loyal) readers to be more profligate with his comments.

A happy 2007 to you all, especially those who take the time to write back with comments on the posts.