A Note On Gnomes

When keeping a tally of gnomes, it is important to be aware of the different varieties, including newly-discovered types of gnome. It is all very well being able to spot, for example, well-known gnomes such as garden gnomes, the gnomes of Zurich, and Rudolf Steiner’s curiously disturbing invisible gnomes, but what will it profit a man if he tallies up some types of gnome but overlooks others entirely?

Consider, for example, the exhausted pipe-cleaner gnomes mentioned in passing on page 149 of Kate Atkinson’s novel Started Early, Took My Dog (2010). To the best of my knowledge, these busy little fellows have not previously been recorded in any authoritative list of gnome-types. Now they have been brought to light, however, it is clear that one must keep an eye out for them when conducting a gnome tally.

Ms Atkinson has little to say about them, although she does note their propensity for drunkenness. We should not be surprised at this, for it does not take much to intoxicate a gnome. And we can hardly begrudge these gnomes their pots of foaming Norwegian lager after a hard day’s pipe-cleaning. Even though you are not a gnome, I expect you too would be exhausted if you were up at the crack of dawn, armed with a scrubbing brush and a bucket of bleach, off to clean pipes until nightfall.

Gnomes are particularly suited to cleaning duties, of course, even when suffering from hangovers, as they usually are. Yet somehow in his magisterial survey of common gnome occupations, Blötzmann omits the pipe-cleaner gnomes, jumping, in his alphabetic list, from oilrig janitor gnomes directly to potting shed snack preparation gnomes. From this we can conclude that the exhausted pipe-cleaner gnomes have deliberately concealed their existence from the wider world, more successfully even than Steiner’s creepy invisible gnomes, which is saying something. The alternative is that Blötzmann failed to notice them, which would mean that his survey is not as magisterial as we have been led to believe. Frankly, that doesn’t bear thinking about. One thing we learn from any half-competent gnome tally is that calling Blötzmann’s expertise into question unleashes those terrible, terrible Blötzmann Reputation Protection gnomes, with their sharpened pins and hallucinatory facial expressions.

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