Good evening. We've just learned that the self-styled Gerald P Floyd—the leader of the Gnomish plot—has been saved at the eleventh hour by a young American woman who bid $2,000 to ransom him from his captors. We had hoped to have Jeremy Paxman host this special broadcast but we understand he is still recuperating from a nasty fall he suffered in the BBC Newsnight studio on Monday.
This must be a tremendously disappointing outcome for the UK concrete bridge foundation who had planned to immure Gerald in the foundations of a new overpass they are building over the M25 in a live television spectacular.
After an unexpected lull in bidding on Sunday—possibly due to the auction clashing with a repeat of 'Gone Fishing'—it looked as if the red-hatted chappie was doomed. The kidnappers even went so far as to decapitate the teddy bear that has accompanied the captive gnome during his adventures and delivered its head to Chairman Tenji in a case of potted shrimp. But their hopes were dashed on Monday night when the Gnome Liberation Movement snatched the lead at the auction. Events quickly became farcical throughout Tuesday as the two main factions bid against each other.
"This is beyond a joke," a spokestypeperson for the UK concrete bridge foundation told me this afternoon as crestfallen labourers turned another cement mixer away from the construction site and the press decamped to the 'Fighting Cock' for the umpteenth time. "You can't keep a 4:1 aggregate mix on the go indefinitely you know," complained the spokestypeperson. "If the little shit is not delivered soon, we're going to look right Charlies."
There worst fears came true tonight as a seventeen-year-old high school student from Broken Springs, in Michigan, put in the winning bid that saved the gnome literally minutes before the auction ended. Gabrielle Giardino, the plucky young woman who bid $2,000 for Gerald, is here in the studio with me to take delivery of the gnome from his captors. Gabrielle—you must be over the moon?"
Gabrielle: "Gaby, please...um—"
Neve: "—Call me Neve, darling. Everyone does."
Gaby: "Well...Neve...I'm like, kinda in shock really."
Neve: "Because of the money? $2,000 is an awful lot of money to pay for a second-hand, semi-starved, garden gnome."
Gaby: (blushing) "It's not the money...my dad is paying for it—um, for poor Gerald. It's the thought of what those bast—can I say that on here?"
Neve: "Of course, darling, this isn't Texas."
Gaby: "Well...it's the thought of what those sick fucks—"
Neve: (interrupting) "Sorry sweetie. Sick (beeped out) is a bit strong for British audiences. Let's stick to 'bastards', shall we? So tell us, why did you bid so late?"
Gaby: "Gee...um...well...it's a bit embarrassing really. A bunch of us were, like—fooling around in my room with candles and Harry Potter broomsticks and Melissa—she's like my best friend at school, was searching the Net for stuff about—um...er..."
Neve: "Go on, dear, don't be shy. You can talk about masturbation on British TV."
Neve: "Sorry, I thought...the broomsticks..."
Gaby: (primly)"We were chasing a naughty pixie."
Neve: (disappointed) "Pixie?"
Gaby: "Yeah...he'd imprisoned the fairy princess in his castle."
Neve: (looking at her watch) "I see..."
Gaby: "Anyway, Mel found this story about...um...Snow White and a magical rabbit—"
Neve: "The popular sex toy, you mean?"
Gaby: (blushing furiously): "Um...yeah...I guess...anyway, I clicked on a link that took me to the eBay auction. I was so totally grossed out by what those sick British satanists were doing to that poor gnome."
Neve: "Satirists, darling."
Gaby: "Yeah, whatever. Anyway, the last bid was three hundred pounds—that's like a thousand bucks, right?"
Neve: (rolling her eyes) "Yes, darling."
Gaby: "So I figured I'd better double it to make sure I won. Then, like a couple seconds later the auction finished. I was so relieved I got there in time."
(Loud cheers from the audience)
Neve: "Lucky Gerald."
Gaby: (dreamily) "Yeah...he's so cute. Dontcha just love his rosy cheeks, cute little button nose and his twinkly, black eyes? They're like...dark forest pools dappled in warm sunshine...um...like windows into the magical realm of fairies and pixies. Do you believe in fairies? I do. We have three in our yard. Dad says—"
Neve: (bored) "—Yes, dear. Giardino—that's an Italian name isn't it?"
Gaby: "Yes—but...I'm third generation and an American patriot."
Neve: "Aren't you all. So, tell us, Gaby, have you ever been to Milan?"
Neve: "New Hampshire."
Neve: "Or had any contact with the Gnome Liberation Movement?"
Neve: "The Gnome Liberation Movement—a radical alliance of self-confessed 'gnome lovers' based in Milan. That's in New Hampshire, not Italy."
Neve: "But you love gnomes?"
Neve: "You like playing with gnomes?"
Gaby: "Oh yeah, right. They're sooo cute."
Neve: "So Gaby, what do you have planned for Gerald?"
Gaby: Oh gosh...I dunno. It hasn't really sunk in yet. A big party I guess...in the woods maybe with my friends. Will he be here soon? I can hardly wait to meet him."
Neve: "In a moment, sweetie. We have Chairman Tenji of the National Satirist Party of England joining us first."
Neve: (patting the girl's hand reassuringly) "Don't fret, darling. We understand Gerald is quite safe and in a taxi on his way to the studio.
(Tall, commanding man strides into studio dressed in full military uniform; black, polished jackboots, baton. Audience breaks into spontaneous chant of 'How Tenji! How Tenji! He waves his hand imperiously for silence and sits down next to Gabrielle who draws back in alarm)
Neve: "Well, Chairman Tenji, this is a surprising development. How is the Party taking it?"
Tenji: (curtly) "With characteristic British phlegm, madam."
Neve: "So, putting a brave face on it?"
Tenji: "Not at all, we have achieved a great deal in a short time. The narrow escape of one Gnome is neither here nor there."
Neve: "But some are saying you have invested so much political capital in this one gnome that you will have to resign."
Tenji: "I hardly think, young lady, that the sale of one gnome is going to bring down a government, however evil and unpopular!"
Neve: "Surely you're exaggerating, Chairman?"
Tenji: "I meant the gnome."
Neve: "Oh, I thought you meant the government."
Tenji: "That is typical of the media, quoting out of context, soundbite journalism at its worse. Now let’s have no more of it; let’s concentrate on what people really want to hear about. This charming young lady, for example, (turns to Gaby) I imagine you like to dance naked in the woods under the stars with the pixies, was it?"
Gaby: (shrinking back) "Wha?"
Tenji: "Do I detect a colonial twang? Are you one of our colonial cousins by any chance?"
Gaby: "Jeez, are you for real?"
Tenji: "I most certainly am, young lady, I have a very important job to do. I am the Prime Minister."
Gaby: "No kidding? Is that like President?"
Tenji: "Well, not exactly, you see we operate a constitutional monarchy which renders the post of Prime Minister technically subservient to the Monarch although for all practical purposes the—"
Gaby: "—Oh so you ain’t the President."
Tenji: "No. Why don’t you tell the viewers why you really ransomed the gnome?"
Gaby: "Well I, like saw him and I wanted him so bad I just grabbed Dad's MasterCard."
Tenji: "Appalling, did you not at least try to exercise some restraint?"
Gaby: "There wasn’t time, I just had to have him."
Tenji: "Cripes! You Americans don't beat about the bush, do you?"
Neve: (giving Tenji a withering look) "Excuse me Prime Minister, but we are straying onto one of those topics your press officer warned us about, unless you specifically wanted to talk about naked teenage girls playing with gnomes in woods?"
Tenji: (turning pale) "Woods? Um...not really, no. Official secrets, what? Look, young lady, thick, woollen underwear and cold showers are what you need every morning and twice if you have eggs for breakfast."
Neve: "Prime Minister, I think you may have misunderstood. Gaby bought the Gnome from eBay. She's not one of your teenage tart—er...not one of those girls who's been frolicking in the woods with red-hatted chappies."
Tenji: "Glad to hear it. Hand him over then."
Tenji: "Hand the little blighter over so we can deal with him, I have the hammer in the car, won't take a minute, you can even have the bits to take home if you want."
Gaby: "Whaaa! Never, you sick fuck! Anyway I paid good money for that gnome and I’m gonna take him home."
Tenji: "I don’t think you are, young lady! (Tenji stands) Now, hand him over!"
Neve: "Prime minister, the gnome has not arrived yet—he is being delivered any minute."
(Disturbance at the back of the studio, short, fat balding man enters with a Tesco carrier bag.)
Tenji: "Tree! What the blue blazes are you doing here?"
Tree: "Chairman, I could ask you the same question. I’m delivering the gnome to the highest bidder.
Gaby: Yeah, that’s me. Hand him over, fatso!"
Tenji: (Sits and leans towards Gaby, smiling and exposing an array of discoloured, crooked and broken teeth, courtesy of a South African National Health Dentist) "Now little girl, you don’t really want the gnome do you?"
Gaby: (Screams) "Eeeeek! Its like something out of The Night of the Living Dead III. Make it go away!"
Tree: (Turning round) "What? Where?"
Neve: "I think she may mean you Prime Minister."
Tenji: "Codswallop, its just teenage hysteria. Look—how much do you want?"
Tree: "Tenji, for God’s sake don’t do it!"
Gaby: "Now you're talking. $10,000 or the gnome lives in comfort in Michigan for the rest of his natural life.
Tree: "Don’t do it Tenji…the rules, remember the rules!"
Tenji: "$5,000, cash in your hand, it’s the best…"
(Suddenly the house lights come on and armed representatives of eBay rush into the studio through all entrances.)
Tenji: (Stands and strides to confront the ebay policeman who is about 5’3’’ tall and has clearly lived exclusively on Pizza and Nachos in a darkened room for several years) "What the devil do mean by this you odious little filing clerk?"
Tree: "No, Tenji, for God’s sake they could—"
Tenji: "—Oh do shut up Tree, you haven’t stopped blubbing since we decapitated his bloody teddy bear with a hacksaw. (Turns to eBay policeman, jabs finger into his chest) I am Prime Minister of Her Britannic Majesty's Government. I do not listen to jumped-up little computer wallahs who waltz in here uninvited, bleating about ebays and charters. Bugger off! I have a country to run."
eBay Police: "So you will not desist?"
Tenji: "Bugger off!"
eBay Police: "Then I have no option but to terminate your account. (He pulls out a palm-top, presses a button, turns on his heel and stalks out).
Neve: "Good evening viewers, in a surprise change of programme we are now interviewing the Prime Minister about the growing crisis in government finance."
Tenji: "What the bloody hell are you talking about, woman? Am I the only one with any grip on reality? What about the blasted gnome?"
Neve: "Prime Minister, I must ask you how the government proposes to conduct its business now your eBay account has been terminated?"
Tenji: "What are you blithering about?"
Neve: "Defence, for instance, how will you buy the new warships President Bush has asked for?
Tenji: "Well, I suppose we will go to a shipyard?"
Neve: "I’m sorry Prime Minister, I am going to have to press you—Harland and Woolfe have just opened an eBay shop and are no longer trading in the real world."
Tenji: "Well, we’ll buy second hand."
Neve: "From eBay?"
Tenji: "Yes, I’ll open a new account."
Neve: "I think you will find very few sellers will take bids over £500,000,000 from newbies! You will need at least a 10 rep before they’ll look at you."
Tenji: "Well, I’ll buy a few CDs first."
Neve: "And how would you pay?"
Tenji: "Cheque? Bankers' Draft, Postal Order?"
Neve: "Not a prayer, it's PayPal or nothing these days and there is no way the British Government will get a PayPal account set up now that you've been excluded."
Tree: "I did try to warn you."
Gerald the Gnome: "I have 100% rep on my eBay account."
Tenji: "No! Don’t listen to him!"
Gerald: "I could make a very good Prime Minister."
Tenji: "You’re only 36 inches tall!"
Gerald: "I could stand on a box."
Tenji: "Tree, do something!"
Tree: "Hold on!" (Runs off set)
Tenji: "Where are you going? (Sees Tree returning) "No! I can’t believe it, you bastard! After all the times you let me copy your homework."
Tree: "Would this box be big enough, Gerald old boy?"
(Special Branch officers burst into the studio. The Gnome is hoisted onto Tree's shoulders by an exultant Gaby. Tenji is dragged off ranting in chains)
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