I was in Cambridge earlier today to gauge public opinion in the wake of Chairman Tenji's address to the National Satirist Party of England, which some fear could unleash a horrific backlash from the Gnomish community, already smarting from the arrest of 144 gnomes on Tuesday.
I began by asking a middle-aged woman buying Hyacinth bulbs at a local garden centre what her worst fears were.
"Fish, mainly," she said with nervous smile.
"Fish?" I repeated.
"Well...Benji and Clarissa are all I've got since the heron took the carp and the tench." The woman dabbed at her eyes with a scented handkerchief and stifled a sob.
"I'm not with you, madam..."
"They'll be hungry, won't they? The gnomes I mean. Starving most likely if Chairman Tenji is to be believed. Such a nice man. So commanding and confident. My late husband was a military man, you know. Do you think it's a bit late for hyacinths? Maybe I should go for ground cover. Herbert—my late husband—always said that March was—"
"—Yes, thank you," I interrupted.
"Would you like a mint humbug?"
I hurried away and buttonholed the first man who looked as though he might be in possession of all his faculties. "Excuse me, sir," I asked "What do you think about the increasingly militant stance the gnomes are taking?"
"Repatriate the blighters."
"Anywhere, as long as they're out of my sight. I used to dread coming here before Chairman Tenji took power. Bloody gnomes everywhere. Poking their little gnomey noses into a chap's private business. Making advances to my daughters."
"Well, what else do call it when one of the little shits asks a girl who's young enough to be his great-granddaughter whether she'd like to see him get the rest of his tackle out?"
"I think he may have meant fishing."
"I'll say! Well, I soon put paid to his 'fishing' when I shoved his bloody rod up his fat bottom!"
"What do you say to those who claim that Chairman Tenji is simply trying to whip up anti-gnome hysteria for his own political ends?"
"Tommyrot! There'll be rivers of blood running through the gardens of England unless we exterminate the garden gnome. They're nothing short of vermin. Sorry, can't stop, just spotted the last industrial chipper in the shop."
"Chipper?" I repeated.
"Nothing shreds gnomes faster."
Disturbing. With entrenched attitudes such as this, is it any wonder that Chairman Tenji's calls for calm and restraint are falling on deaf ears? But what do the younger generation think? I approached a teenage girl who was rifling through the summer seed collection with a puzzled frown puckering her innocent face.
"It's nice to see someone of your age taking an interest in gardening," I began.
"Y'wot?" she replied, spinning round.
"The seeds," I added, nodding at the packet she was clutching in her hand. "Fond of cabbage, are you?"
"Cabbage," I repeated, "Brassica campestris—but you might want to wait until a little later in the year. It's a bit early for greens."
"Is dat wot dat means?" she asked, hastily putting the packet back. "I friggin' 'ate greens!"
"Jord...call me Jord."
"So—Jord, do you think that Chairman Tenji's increasingly belligerent stance is exacerbating the Gnome problem?"
"Do you have a view about Chairman Tenji's hatred of gnomes?"
"Oh, that, yeah...I do as it 'appens. He's a fuckin' nutter."
"Why do you say that?"
"My mate Stace was at dat club...y'know, wot the filth raided."
"The Wheelbarrow club?"
"Yeah, wheelies. Them pigs was well out o' order. Stace says the gnomes was givin' it well large...fags...vodka...anyfink ya wanted. They never did nuffink until the pigs broke down the door and started kicking the shit outta them coz dat mingin' twat Tenji fitted 'em up."
"You don't much care for Chairman Tenji, then?"
"Dead right innit. Gnomes 'ave a mint culture an' a lot to learn us. 'E's only doing this coz 'is missus left him for some short, fat bloke who looks a bit like a gnome. Ere..." she paused, flourishing a packet of seeds under my nose, "Is dis 'Ipomeena?"
"Ipomoea tricolor, you mean? Morning Glory. Yes, the variety you have there is called 'Heavenly Blue."
"Mint!" squealed Jord delightedly. "Ow much should I get d'you fink?"
"That depends on what you're planning; window box, is it, or an herbaceous border?"
"Nah, me sixteenth birthday party."
"Well, I should get plenty then. You'll want to put on a good show for your guests."
There you have it. Rivers of blood or a storm in a wheelbarrow? You decide. This is Neve Milgo for GnomeWATCH News in Cambridge.
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