The Gnome and I – Adventures in First Time Home Ownership
Episode 1-My Momentous Meeting with Henri, the Gnome
This story begins in 2010 when I created a drawing of a Gnome Home. I’ve always liked gnomes. I had a smiling and waving acquaintance with the three who resided in the landlord’s garden.
Little did I know when posting this picture on my website, a gnome several hours away was perusing the internet in search of a home. (Yes, some gnomes are rather tech-savvy.)
Fast forward to Summer 2014: At last I was able to leave the land of ramshackle rentals and I went in search of my new abode. Being half-mermaid the logical location was a home on the coast. I knew my first choice, a castle by the sea (dragon included), was completely out of the question.
So I looked for a house by the sea; preferably Victorian in style. No, definitely not affordable.
Cottage by the sea? Still out of my price range.
Hovel descending into the sea?! Not even that was in my budget!
It quickly dawned on me I was going about it all wrong by searching only in my preferred area. So I sought homes within my price range, none of which were located by the sea. (Sigh, mermaid tears) So inland I went. I found a cottage in a small town I never heard of; three hours as the gull flies from the sea. Not a mermaid’s dream location although it was home to a curious flock of gulls who frequented a large carpark on the main road. The cottage appeared to be in decent shape. As the real estate agent pointed out the supposed positive attributes, I investigated for negative energies. I detected none, so I took a leap of faith and purchased it; after paying for an inspection, of course.
[Rule 1-Have the property inspected! The house I liked the best had too many expensive flaws so I kept looking.
Rule 2-Negotiate! If the inspection isn’t 100% calculate the costs to fix and offer less than the asking price. The seller flatly declined my offer but 20 minutes later saw reason and accepted.
Rule 3-Expect the unexpected!]
Two weeks after I had moved in, still trying to make order from chaos, I heard a tapping on the front door. I waded through the sea of boxes (no mermaid pun intended) and found myself knee to face with a gnome. My gknowledge of Gnomish is gnegligible and he didn’t appear to know many English words. He produced a print of the aforementioned gnome home. I deduced he had come in search of the home depicted in my drawing. I tried to explain the illustration was merely a figment of my imagination. His hopeful countenance was now downcast.
I invited him in and he looked about the disarray in dismay. He pointed to a scrap of packing paper and a produced a pencil from his knapsack. He wrote a series of words; some Gnomish, others in French and English, ending with a question mark.
I deciphered his question thus: ‘Are you the Queen of this castle?’ I thought for a moment, then nodded my head in the affirmative. As a descendant of Melusina, I am half-mermaid. According to town records the official name of my little property is Sandringham Place. As Hyacinth Bucket was often heard to proclaim, “If not for an accident of birth, I could have been someone important.” (A lack of one letter, and small it may be; this property is ruled by me!) Indeed, I was the Queen of this castle.
The gnome bowed with a flourish and introduced himself. “Madame, je suis Henri.” He bowed again and offered me a bar of chocolate. He apparently could understand English but preferred to speak French as it was obvious I could not properly converse in Gnomish. I don’t speak French either but he overlooked that failing.
I could tell by his dejected expression, he realised the gnome home he hoped to find here did not exist. I could not turn him away so I stated if he intended to remain, he could serve as my butler. (I was rather enjoying the role of Queen.) His look of annoyance was profound.
An idea! I retrieved a chopstick from the kitchen, tapped him lightly on both shoulders and bestowed upon him the title of Queen’s Guard. He smiled, bowed again and immediately assumed sentry position at the front door. Frankly, I had little use for a guard; I needed help with unpacking. But he stood his ground and refused to do any manual labour.
Henri accepted and/or ignored my idiosyncrasies as he should; I am Queen. As the days went by I became acquainted with his. Henri dislikes Chinese take-away; he prefers chocolate above all other foods. He often filches my chocolate despite having a large supply of his own. (How he acquires it is anyone’s guess.) He will have his little pranks and enjoys hiding my shells and crystals, smiling innocently as I search the house to find them. Laundry and house-cleaning he avoids at all costs. Although he had not mentioned it, I think he must have served in the Gnomish Gnavy as he is quite fond of dancing the hornpipe to all music.
Henri regards his position of Queen’s Guard with decorum and protocol.
“La Garde de la Reine ne s’implique pas dans le tri des articles pour le recyclage!”
(“The Queen’s Guard does not involve himself in sorting items for recycling!”) he stated unequivocally; sounding very much like the marvellous David Suchet in his role of Hercule Poirot.
Every now and then Henri would leave his post at the front door and march about, inspecting each room and taking notes. “Reconnaissance!” he explained in answer to my raised eyebrow. (I think he was looking for new places to hide my chocolate!)
The first time he saw the bathroom he roared with laughter. I found him upside down, shouting with glee, “Les années 1980 téléphonèrent. Ils veulent que leur luminaire retour!” (“The 1980s called; they want their light fixture back!”)
One day during his weekly inspections, he cried out from the bathroom with alarm, “Le ciel tombe!”
To be continued…..
Episode 2-Le Ciel Tombe!
Henri shouted again, “Le ciel tombe!” My less than superior interpretation skills translated this announcement as ‘the sky is is tumbling.’ What? ¿Que?! Quelle?!! Stumbling over half-unpacked boxes I raced into the bathroom to find Henri pointing at the ceiling. Whereupon I noticed several cracks in the plaster and the first crack in the veneer of my ‘move-in ready’ home. The house had been freshly painted only 4 or 5 months before. How could the paint be peeling already?
[‘Move-in-ready’ is a phrase that often loses in translation. A cave is move-in ready; but that is hardly ideal. Unless you are a bear. Despite first appearances, there is always something that needs changing or fixing when buying a home on a strict budget.]
I had already planned to renovate the bathroom. I had spent more than 15 years with a dreadful-looking bathroom in the rental; no more atrocious bathrooms for me! First was to get rid of the hideous plastic shower surround which was becoming unglued from the wall and have the area tiled. Then replace the ugly plastic sink thing with a proper sink, replace the medicine chest and light fixture, and do something about the awful vinyl floor, preferably tile. Now I added the ceiling to the list.
Luckily I have been watching those home buying/selling/renovating shows on television for quite some time. So I had a good idea of what I wanted, how to get it done properly and how much of it I could do by myself (not much, other than painting). And thankfully, I found a good contractor who was able to begin straight away. I was very happy he found no bugs or mould inside the walls he ripped out.
Henri was ready to begin and donned his construction hat and monocle protector.
I ordered what I needed from the home stores and the deliveries piled up in my front parlour. Henri supervised the organising of supplies. The contractor replaced the ceiling, tiled around the tub, replaced the ugly faucet and shower head in the tub, and installed the new sink, medicine chest and light fixture. If he was surprised to find a gnome living in my house he took it in stride.
As the contractor did his work I removed the ugly 1960s radiator covers and tossed them outside for him to haul away. He thought it was hilarious to see me wrestle with these big ugly things.
In less than a week, my bathroom had been transformed! I really wanted to remove the lower bathroom walls (ridiculous faux wood/made-to-resemble-tile-stuff that was glued to the studs) and replace with white wainscoting. But that and the floor would have to wait as I had made the classic rookie mistake of having too small a budget for all of these changes. Plus I still needed to switch the boiler from oil to natural gas and the range/oven from electric to natural gas in October. I painted the upper walls a tranquil sea green, of which Henri approved. And lived another year with awful vinyl floor, which made both Henri and me shudder every time we looked at it.
To be continued…….
Episode 3 – Henri Gets Mail
A few weeks had gone by and I was still unpacking as well receiving items for the house. As Sentry, Henri watched for the post as well as inspecting deliveries of my online purchases. Although Henri was adept at using the computer, he appeared to be very interested in receiving snail mail.
He usually hid behind the curtain when the mail was delivered and waited for me to retrieve it. One day he uncharacteristically raced outside and grabbed the mail. All bills for me but he was ecstatic as he had received an envelope as well.
“J’ai finalement reçu une lettre de mon cousin Bertrand!”
(I have finally received a letter from my cousin Bertrand!) he exclaimed, waving the letter in the air.
“How nice! Where does he live?”
“Évidemment; Nome, Alaska.”
I should have known. 😉
Epsiode 4 – Meeting the Neighbours
Luck of the draw, bad karma; all the places I had ever rented in cities were rife with noisy, inconsiderate neighbours. Very much like the ones in the Rolling Stones song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omGDmvNWLVw of the same name. If one is renting, one can move. But as a homeowner, you are rather stuck with whomever owns the properties bordering yours. So I was a bit apprehensive about meeting my neighbours here in the country.
Henri did a bit of covert spying but did not acquire any intel of value. (He was of the opinion that the leaves he attached to his hat made good camouflage as well as a fashion statement.)
I had already experienced serious unfriendliness from the woman living at the property directly behind mine. My several attempts at communicating had been soundly rebuffed so I wasn’t sure what else to expect. I wasn’t too keen on meeting the ones with noisy dogs on the other side of my property. I was pleasantly surprised by the couple directly next door.
I met Dan and Jane one sunny day as I was hanging the laundry on my newly installed clothesline. They were a lovely, elderly couple who found me rather comical. (Little did they know I was half-mermaid with a guard gnome.)
It seemed Henri was not the only one with keen powers of observation!
Dan and Jane remarked that I was the only one in the neighbourhood who hung laundry outside. (I was living in the country. Air is clean and free; why waste money on an electric clothes dryer?)
I was spotted several times on the main road using my own shopping cart instead of a car. (I don’t have a car.)
I wear my hair in braids like Pippi Longstocking. (Like other mermaids, my hair is waist-length and everywhere I went people commented on it. Apparently ‘women of a certain age’ wear their hair short. Not happening.)
One of their friends wondered if I belonged to a religious cult as most of my attire is black. (I’m from the city; light-coloured clothing on public transportation does not fare well. Should I be expecting a visit from Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General?)
They took it upon themselves to teach me about living in the country. My clothes apparently ran the gamut from too elaborate to weird. “Who knows?” I countered. “I may become a fashion trendsetter!”
“No, people will just think you are a bit off”, they said. (Well, it won’t be the first time and certainly won’t be the last. Better to be labelled ‘strange’ rather than the village idiot.)
They thought it was hilarious that I locked my doors when I was merely going next door to their house. In the city we locked the doors at all times. I once lived in a building in which we locked our doors to go down the corridor to deposit rubbish in the chute. The place was routinely burgled so precaution was necessary.
When I visited Dan and Jane, I rang the bell and waited to be invited in. They insisted I should walk right in, whenever. (Other than Kramer, who routinely burst into Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment, I had never known a visitor to enter someone’s space in the city without knocking .)
They were amazed that I had gotten rid of the screen door in the front and had the contractor install an iron security door. He had never heard of a security door. My front door, original to the house, is all glass panes and thin wood. Perhaps I watch too many crime dramas and read too many murder mysteries. But I knew if I, a person with no criminal experience, could break in less than 30 seconds; so could a burglar. I also had him put security bars on the windows in the basement and the back door. Apparently another first. Which led Dan and Jane to believe I was safeguarding a fortune until I explained I had never lived on the ground floor on my own. Now when I heard strange sounds in the night, I was confident it was not burglars. (Just wild animals, ghosts or a wayward werewolf.)
Dan showed me how to use some hand tools so I could fix things myself and gave me all sorts of tips. Such as rolling the garden hose up after use and keeping it off the concrete step so it would last longer. Jane had an array of talents that included sewing, painting and baking. She often sent over home-made treats.
Dan and Jane became real friends for which I was very grateful. They were in poor health so if heavy things needed lifting or they wanted assistance with anything I was happy to do so. They were kind enough to show me some of the surrounding countryside. We went to a nearby apple orchard and to some farm stands for fresh vegetables. I could never work out where we were as all the country roads looked the same to me, which always gave Dan a chuckle. If they had errands to run they asked if I wanted to tag along and we often went grocery shopping.
When the I invited them over to see how I was progressing with the house, Henri hid in a cupboard.
To be continued!
Episode 5 – The Yard
As this was my first dwelling with my own yard I was determined to have nice looking grass and a flower garden. I grew up in suburbia where lawns and gardens were always a main topic of conversation between neighbours. The weeds migrating from the property next door presented a problem. The men I hired to do the mowing brought me grass seed. I diligently watered early and late as instructed. Dan said I was wasting my time; there was nothing I could do about the weeds. Henri consulted his latest edition of Better Gnomes & Gardens and concurred.
I persisted to no avail. The weeds won in the end. But they were delightful in their own way. Whenever something new sprouted I was excited. Each time I presented my latest wildflowers to Dan and Jane. And they would kindly explain the specimens were weeds.
Episode 6 – Progress in the Parlours
With Henri supervising (as I tend to procrastinate) I was making great strides with unpacking the boxes. I could now see the floor! But my elation turned to annoyance when I discovered the hardwood floors had not been refinished as the realtor had stated; but merely made shiny with polish which disappeared upon washing. Of course now that all of my things were here, it would be impossible to redo the floors. Yet, another rookie mistake.
A very interesting feature of my cottage is that is has two parlours. I have seen this in great mansions and stately homes; morning rooms and such. But I had never seen anything like this before in a small house. It is perfect for me. I decided to have one side for seating, the media armoire (fancy name for the cabinet holding the TV, stereo, CDs, DVDs) and a large bookcase on one side. The other side I designated as The Curiosity Room (fancy name for all my collections of things).
The unpacking continued. If I haven’t bored you to tears with this saga by now, you might be wondering just how much stuff I had to unpack! Despite the fact I had all the boxes marked clearly into which room to be placed, the movers ignored me completely and made a mess of it. I spent a lot of time turning boxes right side up and hunting for things. Thankfully, I had over-packed with plenty of paper and bubble wrap or several items would have perished with such rough handling. I had finally organised enough to be able to put the unpacked boxes in the second bedroom and focus on fine tuning. The pile of empty boxes and packing supplies grew. I wondered if the town’s recycling crew thought I was taking in other people’s recycling.
Mid-September arrived and so did my new bed. I could stop sleeping on the floor! It was still warm enough to have all the windows open during the day. So I decided to paint a plain unfinished shelf unit ebony black. As if I didn’t have enough projects to keep me busy. I was pleased with the end result so I repainted the media armoire to match. I then purchased antique reproduction knobs and pulls.
One night as I was drifting off to sleep I thought I heard a noise in the front of the house. I crept into the hallway and peered into the parlour. I saw Henri outfitted in what appeared to be ninja attire practising with shuriken (Japanese throwing stars)!
To be continued……
Episode 7 -The Tale of the Gninja Gnome – One Last Job
I awoke the next morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Where was I? I opened one eye half-way. I was in my own bed. I wasn’t dreaming. Henri made coffee?? Had I really seen him in a ninja costume the night before?
Walking into the kitchen I observed Henri had indeed made coffee and procured chocolate croissants!
“Madame, j’ai beaucoup à vous dire.” (Madam, there is much I must tell you.), Henri began slowly.
“After breakfast, si vou plais,” I replied, eyeing the meal with delight.
After fortifying myself with three croissants, an omelette au fromage and two cups of coffee, I asked Henri to enlighten me as to his cryptic statement. As if on cue, an arrow with a brown envelope wrapped around it came sailing through the open window. Thanks to my cat-like reflexes I ducked just in time to avoid being impaled. I raced to the window to see who the sinister delivery person was but only caught a glimpse of a man dressed in black speeding away on a motorbike.
Henri had remained strangely calm, as if he expected this to happen. I unwrapped the envelope which was addressed to me, Queen of Mermaid Castle. Inside were three blank sheets of paper. I gave Henri a stern look but he said nothing.
‘Probably written in invisible ink,’ I thought to myself. But what type? I held the first page over a lit candle. No message appeared so I surmised the message was not written with lemon juice or milk. I tried painting some grape juice at the top of the paper and voila!
Some words were beginning to appear: “From the Desk of Doubtpuppet” followed by a black triangle. The name sounded familiar. Of course! The dashing Mr Doubtpuppet, poet extraordinaire and famous blogger!
“Madame”, the first page began, “The information contained herein is from the confidential files of the Gnomic Gninjas. Henri is one of their elite agents. I have transcribed this from Gnomish to English in the form of a story with names changed in the event this communication was stolen before reaching you. Each page will self-destruct within five minutes of being decoded.” The page was already beginning to melt into a small purple puddle on the table.
I glanced at Henri quizzically but he remained silent. I applied the grape juice to the second page and began to read the intriguing tale.
Somersaulting from the cinema rooftop down onto the town hall, pursued by the frenzied Goblin horde, it occurred to Henri that coming out of retirement may have been a mistake. Hot footing over the groaning ancient slates of the town hall roof, he simultaneously tossed two shuriken sideways into the foreheads of two Goblins attempting an ill-advised flanking manoeuvre. He realised their numbers were legion and this chase was never going to end; so it was time to get the hell out of Dodge.
Like a fireman, he descended the drain pipe down to the deserted street. Then whistled for his Galapagos Attack Turtle, Cossimo, to rendezvous with him and make a speedy getaway. One hour later, sitting exhausted beside a pile of skillfully dispatched Goblin corpses muttering “Cet espèce de con tortue!”, he greeted an out of breath Cossimo, who had made haste to stage a daring rescue. Leaping onto Cossimo’s back, he shouted “YIIAAA!!! YIIIAAAAA!!!!” while slapping Cossimo’s shell with the black conical hat clenched in his hand. Cossimo took a moment to creak his wrinkled head up towards Henri and cast him an unimpressed glance as if to say “Don’t be ridiculous!”
After a thrilling two hour chase in which Cossimo employed stunning acrobatics and evasive manoeuvres to outwit his Goblin pursuers, they arrived back home in the next street. Amid the excitement, Henri had fallen asleep with exhaustion, rocked in the saddle by Cossimo’s tectonic swagger and his occasional expressions of “Oh, dearie me”.
“C’est pas comme c’etait auparavant, Cossimo” (It’s not like it used to be, Cossimo), Henri sighed as he dismounted.
He could still hear the bay of the Goblin hordes echoing on the night breeze. Left in the dust by Cossimo’s unforgiving pace, they had not been able to keep up or locate Henri’s secret oak tree hideout in the Muldoons’ back garden. But he knew it would only be a matter of time. They were friends of the arcane arts and had spies everywhere.
Mr and Mrs Muldoon had treated Henri like a son, but sadly, it was time to relocate. He hastily penned a goodbye note and pinned it to their back door, along with a scale model of their house he had been carving for their 50th anniversary tomorrow. There was no time to explain and he just hoped they would understand.
Henri sneaked across the night garden and touched a combination of stones on the rockery until a secret door opened in one of the rocks. He walked through the doorway and the door automatically slid silently shut behind him. Fireflies in jars slowly lit up revealing cave with a carefully laid out cache of small weapons adorning its left side – throwing stars, blowpipes, poison darts, daggers, garrottes, vials of poison, strange custom grenades of different types. Some with smoke clouds painted on the side, some with flame, some with noses. At the far end a wardrobe of Gninja-wear: black hats, slippers and pyjamas. And on the right side a dressing table and mirror, with a desk and computer. Squirrel Tech of course. Only the finest.
At this point the second page was beginning to drip onto the table. I tossed it into the sink and began to decode the final page.
Henri was sad. The Muldoons had loved having him there. He’d made a life for himself there. A regular at the local Gnomic Standing Stones, he taught elderly Wood Elves tai chi down in the dell on Saturday afternoons. And he was part of a barbershop quartet with a couple of Pixies and another retired Gnome. Of course, none of them knew about his secret identity. Henri, like his father and grandfather before him, had been in the service of the Gnome Royal Family. Taking care of … difficult woodland business on the down low. Trained in the Gninja arts from childhood, from the age of 113, he had carried out assassinations, kidnaps, and sabotage against the Goblin Kingdom to keep Gnomedom safe from its envious clutches. It was a heavy burden but somebody had to bear it. That was the life.
He’d been retired seven years now. Having an unnatural prescience, he knew well enough to keep practising his Gninja arts just in case he was recalled for duty, or in case old enemies came calling. And besides, it beat the hell out of tai chi.
When a Gnome emissary showed up at his door at 3:16am the night before, Henri was disappointed but not surprised. His reputation was such that he’d been given all of the biggest jobs. He knew it was only a matter of time until the uneasy peace with the Goblin Kingdom descended into the usual hostilities and his services would once more be required. When the King’s man came knocking, Henri couldn’t say no. It was a question of honour.
It was meant to be a simple take down. The emissary had been tracking a three-man Goblin hit squad who’d sneaked across the great river in coracles two nights ago. They had been camped out by the lake since; waiting to make a move on Prince Guillaume, the Gnome King’s son who had a chateau in a Beech tree the other side of the lake. Easy job. Clean in and out. Goblins snore like walruses so he’d wait until they were asleep, and climb the Hornbeam tree over their camp and drip poison into their open mouths down a silken thread.
But the job had gone south. When he overlooked the camp from the tree, there were no sleeping Goblins but a tape recorder playing Goblin snoring on a loop. He’d been set up!
Goblin hordes poured out of the bullrushes and the adjoining tree tops. It took all of his gymnastic abilities and artifice to get out of there alive. Swinging from branch to branch, leaving a trail of smoke and sulphur in his wake. If it weren’t for Cossimo’s lightning speed, he would’ve surely died there.
But now, the clock was ticking. He had to find somewhere new to hide out, and fast. He scanned the Gnominet for leads on potential hideouts. His old friend from Gnome Security sent him a blog post; a Mermaid ally had posted reconnaissance photos of a vacant Gnome hideout. It was a perfect location, and Henri had already fallen in love with the tree home in the picture. He opened up the back half of Cossimo’s shell revealing a spacious cargo compartment. After collecting his most precious possessions from his tree home in a knapsack, he started carefully transferring all of the clothes and weaponry. One last look into the cave, before strolling out and tossing a boom grenade back over his shoulder, timed to go off once they were clear.
He leapt onto Cossimo’s back, slapped his shell and dug his heels in. “Montre moi ce que veut dire la vitesse Cossimo!” (Show me the meaning of speed Cossimo!). And in a flash they were away. An hour later, they reached the threshold of the Muldoons’ property. As Henri glanced back, two simultaneous puffs of smoke temporarily lit up his old home and the cave. It was finished. No looking back now. New pastures waited ahead, new adventures, and a mystery Mermaid ally.
The third page was now purple liquid going down the drain. I was momentarily rendered speechless. As I was about to question Henri, the phone rang. It was Mr Doubtpuppet! “Madame, I trust you have committed what you read to memory and the originals have dissolved.”
I stammered in the affirmative and thanked him for this spectacular revelation. And wondered what other secrets Henri was keeping.
©Doubtpuppet 2017 <—To read more from Mr Doubtpuppet Many thanks for his superb story!
Episode 8- Leaves Me Alone
I was a bit disappointed that my property had no trees; only three tree stumps. However, as Autumn arrived I had masses of leaves. Leaves from the noisy-dogs-neighbours’ trees blanketed my entire property. If the situation was reversed I would have offered to rid their property of my leaves. Instead, they watched me raking their leaves, yet offered no assistance or bags. Henri was appalled. ‘Comportement grossier!’ (Churlish behaviour!)
Henri suggested I bag the leaves and place them on their doorstep with a note “Merci vous êtes les feuilles de vos arbres. Je suis retourner à vous.” (Thank you for your tree leaves. I am returning them.) It was difficult to restrain myself but I refrained from leaving a leafy present; i.e. choose your battles with neighbours wisely.
Mid-October arrived. There was just enough time to plant bulbs and Dan supervised. Henri looked on with approval as I dug holes, inserted the bulbs and then covered the beds with hay. Contrary to popular belief not all gnomes all partial to gardening. Henri preferred to watch me do all the work.
Episode 9 – A Gnomish Halloween
Having taken care of the outside of the house it was time to continue the organisation inside. It was getting cold and I had planned to change out the old oil furnace for a natural gas one. A very expensive addition to the house but necessary. The house came with a used glass top electric stove complete with alien gadgetry that I would never use. I donated it and purchased a new gas one; no bells, whistles, timers, clock or other features that fall apart the day after the warranty expires. Although the electric had a self-cleaning oven (I hate to clean the oven!) everything I cooked on it looked like it had been blow-torched. I like crispy food but this was ridiculous.
It was quite a circus one morning with the plumbers, gas company, fire chief and delivery men all arriving simultaneously to do the replacements and inspections. Thankfully everything was installed by lunch time. And I was able to enjoy a meal that was not charred beyond recognition.
It was almost Halloween. I unpacked my decorations and set them up in the Curiosity Room. My bat, Fledermaus, chose a front row spot on the table so he could get a good look at all the children’s costumes.
In the past month Henri asked to take time off from guard duty for a few evenings. I wondered if he was on another gninja assignment (episode 7). He explained he was at the library. A show of hands, please. How many of us used that excuse on our parents when we were clearly up to something of which they would not approve?
Turns out he was really at the library. On a romantic rendezvous! What most folk didn’t know, there was a branch of the Gnomic Public Library located on the side of the town library. It was invisible to all but those who believe in the possibility of the magickal. Henri had met Miss Rita Booke, the head librarian. After a few dates, he had asked her to the Halloween Ball.
Rita cooked up some treats in her cauldron that we all enjoyed. Henri invited his friend, Jack, to the festivities. And insisted I take their photos. I turn into a vampire on Halloween. So naturally there is no photo of me as the camera could not see my reflection. Needless to say, we all got stomach aches from too many Halloween sweets. 🙂
Episode 10 – Rearranging the furniture (again) and a Visitor
[Another phrase to watch out for when looking for a home is ‘location, location, location’. The real estate agent repeated over and over about how great the location was. Yes, the house is within walking distance to several shops and I do not own a car. But the house is located on what appeared to me to be a two-lane country road. It turned out to be one of the busiest roads in the county of which I am sure she was aware. I was envisioning bucolic peace and quiet. Instead, vehicles of every size and description drive by my house 24/7. I have yet to see an army tank but would not be surprised if one passed by.]
November was cold and rainy; perfect for staying indoors. So I had no excuse for not finishing the seemingly never-ending unpacking. The house has two bedrooms; one of which I planned to be my studio/craft room. I thought I had things arranged. (Famous last words!) Necessity made me switch bedrooms. I had originally chosen the bedroom on the west side of the house as it was a bit larger. However, the one on the east side was slightly more quiet; farther away from the barking dogs and traffic.
This meant moving all the furniture and unpacked boxes from one room to the other through the narrow hallway by myself. I moved my solid oak Edwardian bedroom set which included a very tall armoire from one side of the house to the other. Henri was suitably impressed. Of course, he supervised but moved nothing.
(Translation: Henri: “A bit to the right, please!”)
My new sofa and rug had finally arrived for the parlour.
(Translation: Henri: “Get rid of those ugly planters, please!”)
(Me: “Been reading Better Gnomes and Gardens again?”)
One evening as I was watching television I saw something move next to the computer armoire. I got up to investigate and was greeted by a mouse. A tiny black and brown mouse which froze in its tracks. We stared at each other and then it ran back behind the armoire. As there had been mice in the city rental, I was not too surprised to find them in the country. I expect it took a wrong turn and ended up in the house.
This gave me an idea in the event the mouse returned!
I didn’t see the mouse again until the spring. It had grown four times in size and ran through the kitchen to the basement. How it squeezed itself under the basement door was astonishing!
Episode 11 – The Throne
To read from the beginning click here: The Gnome and I
One day Henri looked critically at the parlour and remarked, “Tu es une reine. Où est votre trône?” (“You are a Queen. Where is your throne?”)
Strange how he always overlooks the fact that I am Queen when there was work to be done! But Henri had a point. I longed for a comfortable chair for reading. I searched online but could not find the type of chair I wanted at an affordable price. I remembered seeing a second-hand shop in town. Maybe I could find something there. The people in the shop stared at my beret; apparently I’m the only one in town to wear one. They somehow missed seeing Henri’s red hat. There was a nice-looking chair for sale but the fabric did not match the rest of my decor. (I now worried about such things as matching decor!) The price was right with free delivery so I decided to give upholstering a try. What could go wrong?
Apparently quite a lot, I realised after viewing upholstery videos online. I did not have the skill level or proper tools to take the entire chair apart. There was nothing wrong with the stuffing so I elected to recover the chair instead.
After searching for hours online I finally found the perfect dark red velvet and matching fringe. But I was so petrified of ruining the velvet that the chair remained untouched for a few months. I painted the feet ebony black. I finally got up the courage to make the pattern pieces out of parchment paper and cut the fabric. Working very methodically, I hand-sewed and glued the velvet to the chair and then hand-sewed the fringe around the bottom edge. It took a week to recover the chair and at last I had a proper throne!
Now Henri repeatedly made fun of the plastic tray I ate upon and purchased an appropriate vintage silver-plated tray on ebay. (Who gknew he had an account on ebay?!)
All I was missing now was a tiara and a prince. I could buy myself the tiara easily enough. Finding a Prince Charming would be considerably more difficult (and cannot be ordered from ebay).
Episode 12 -Winter
To read from the beginning click here: The Gnome and I
November arrived and with it, cold and snow. So now was the perfect opportunity to unpack everything and get organised. No excuses! Henri supervised, as usual, and soon practically every box was empty. I was able to fit all my china and teapot collection in the cupboards. A first! Some of my things had been packed away for years. In the small rental, there was very little opportunity to rearrange the furniture. Here I could rearrange the furniture as often as I wished. (Too often, in Henri’s opinion!)
One day Henri had enough of all the chaotic rearranging and went outside. About 10 minutes later I heard muffled cries of “Aidez-moi!” (Help me!) I went to investigate and found Henri trapped in a snowdrift! After I pulled him free, he sheepishly followed me back into the house and helped me unpack the last few boxes.
December brought quite a bit of snow. As a renter I never shovelled snow. Now that I was a grand property owner the job of snow removal was mine. With one snowstorm after another it was becoming difficult to keep the path in front of my house clean.
One morning, after another heavy snowstorm, I heard the sounds of boots and singing. Henri had enlisted the help of his friends who were visiting from Greenland and they were clearing the path. No silly dwarf songs for them! Bohemian Rhapsody* in 9 part harmony!
Winter Solstice arrived. Henri and I hosted a lavish dinner for the Greenlandish gnomes. 2014 came to a close. I was finally settled in. Until the following Autumn, when much to Henri’s dismay, I brought all the things from the storage unit and began unpacking and rearranging all over again!
A New Year and Valentine’s Day
To read from the beginning click here: The Gnome and I
The new year of 2015 brought even more snow and cold. Henri’s friends from Greenland had returned home to take care of their own winter chores. So that left me in charge of snow removal. Which, strangely enough, was a welcome change from being indoors.
Henri stood on my shoulders to get a better look at the icicles that formed all around the house.
However, by February, the novelty of snow shovelling had worn off completely. So I was happy to hear that Henri wanted to plan a special Valentine’s Day dinner as he had decided to make his courtship official with the gnomish librarian, Rita Booke. We looked through cookery books for ideas and planned a menu. I had volunteered to be the chef, so it had to be simple yet elegant, and something I knew how to cook. I also had agreed to be the server but I put my foot down when Henri suggested I wear a uniform. I am the Queen of this castle after all!
Valentine’s night arrived, freezing but clear, with twinkling stars. The table was set with my best china and silverware. Rita looked lovely and Henri was beaming. Before dinner, he presented her with a red rose and asked, “Voulez-vous me faire l’honneur de devoner mon fiance?” (Would you do me the honour of becoming my fiance?) Rita blushed appropriately and demurely answered, “Oui, mon cher.” (Yes, my dear.)
I served the meal, which turned out rather well, and was praised repeatedly. Henri and Rita insisted I eat with them. I opened a bottle of champagne that I had been saving for a special occasion and toasted the happy couple. In the course of conversation, I casually asked if the sound of little gnome feet would be heard in the near future. Rita was aghast! Henri whispered that gnome courtships lasted 10 years and most gnomes waited until they were at least 350 years old to marry. I apologised for my faux pas, blaming it on too much champagne, insisting that Rita surely didn’t look a day over 300.
Henri escorted Rita home. And I, of course, did the washing up. As well as finishing the last of the champagne.
Chapter 14 – Spring Surprises
The long cold Winter had finally ended. Spring brought some surprises. The bulbs I had planted in Autumn had sprouted! The crocuses (croci?) were the first to bloom. Followed by daffodils and tulips. Having always lived in rentals, I never had the opportunity to plant anything outside. So I was happy to see that the bulbs had bloomed even though I had not planted that many.
Henri was excited as well and set his swing amongst the tulips.
A rather interesting phenomena had occurred; my front door was slowly turning into a dragon.
A town mandate required me to post a warning. Which probably accounted for my mail and deliveries being thrown onto my porch from a safe distance.
Some surprises were wholly unwelcome. One of the walls in the kitchen developed a large crack. As did the ceiling. Apparently the person who installed the drywall did not tape and finished the seams properly.
The paint on the woodwork all over the house was beginning to chip and crack, revealing varnished wood underneath. Even a novice such as myself knows painting latex over varnish is a disaster waiting to happen. The varnish either needs to be removed completely or at the very least, an application of primer before painting. There was no chance of removing the paint and varnish now that my things were here. So my only option was to continue to paint over the cracks. My Summer to-do list was becoming extremely lengthy!
©Story, Artwork and Photos Morgaine du Mer 2017