Believe me, these poseurs would be mad to go on a trip anywhere beyond that garden wall. They don’t yet know that the country outside has disappeared down a gaping black economic hole at warp speed, thanks to a criminal cabal (banksters and conniving politicians). All that’s missing in this scene is Nero playing a fiddle. Maybe he doesn’t look sufficiently Irish to be included but he’d certainly feel at home.
These guys will hang on in the garden, simply because the Woman of the House has them spoiled beyond what’s good for them. All due respect, she’s like a German bank feeding them an ever tastier banquet of sweet stuff - and they’re high on it, in the zone.
Even if they choose to, they won’t get it as easy if they emigrate to Australia where all Irish able-bodied persons with a passport (including the walking wounded) are going to as we speak. These cheerful gnomes will stay put, not knowing that the party is over. Watching them, carefree, frolicking in the garden, enjoying the feel-good factor, believing it will go on forever, I can’t resist a frisson of anxiety about the whole hunky-dory scene. It reminds me of Ireland in 2006 – happy, happy, happy, in the boom. Just like the gnomes in the garden.
Take a look at the colour picture. I’ve posted it to show them in their best days. I fear that the sun will soon set forever on their happy realm, for if we know anything about history, we know that it repeats itself.
At first glance, everything looks rosy, doesn’t it. But the longer I stare at the scene, the more terrified I get.
My big concern is the expression on the elderly female gnome’s face (bottom right lurking behind the daffodils). That’s the give-away. She’s a malcontent if ever I saw one and believe me, as a newspaper editor and journalist of forty years standing, man and boy, I know a trouble-maker when I see one.
An elder of the clan, she should be up front beaming reassuringly at the world or at least, putting on a brave face, like Ireland Inc. has to do these days, lying through its teeth to the Germans and French that everything is okey-doke. Instead, she’s skulking in the undergrowth with, dare I say it, malicious intent, looking like she’s about to burn a senior bondholder - if she could find one in this Garden of Eden.
See that venomous expression. Does she know something about an imminent default on sovereign debt in the Kingdom of the Gnomes? Is she in negative equity already, like the rest of us mortals in the other world? Was she a shareholder in a bank and is now penniless? Is her pension worthless? Has she found out what has happened on the other side of the wall?
Notice the way the gnome carrying the empty tray is watching her with palpable apprehension. I took him to be the main man because he has the requisite charismatic look but he seems to be very edgy. Then again, a man in his position has a lot to be edgy about. One thing for sure, he doesn’t trust the lady in the undergrowth one little bit. Maybe he’s thinking she’s about to do something stupid – like stage a coup d’etat. Wait a minute! Could he be a secret bondholder himself – maybe one of those politicos who siphon off stuff and invest if off-shore! Is the sulphurous gnome in the bushes lying in wait to burn HIM!
Come to think of it, his tray is empty. Not a good career move. Not such a bountiful image for the rest of the expectant gnomes who have never known a day’s need, who are so used to being so lavishly spoon-fed that their sense of entitlement knows no bounds. He needs to get his hands on some of the good things of life pretty damn quick before the gnomes get the wrong idea and start asking awkward questions. Like where did it all go wrong. And whose fault is it. This kind of thing could lead to a run on the House or, worse still from his point of view, a leadership challenge led by the shrew in the bush. No wonder he looks edgy.
And then there’s the unthinkable: has he pawned off all the bonbons (not them all surely?) to save himself from some kind of bailout, just like the government outside the wall hocked the country to the Germans not so long ago? Is the IMF about to arrive in the Garden of the Gnomes?
The more I examine the body language in this whole tableau, the more I think I’m looking at a pictorial metaphor for the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger. Next thing you know, these gnomes will be rioting outside the gate.