Social Media Award Winner

Thursday, July 02, 2015

There's no place like gnome

Hey, how YOU doin?
We journalists get a lot of strange press releases. Mostly they are only odd because they have nothing to do with our line of work.

For example, for three years in a row, the DeutschePost service used to send me emails, in German, outlining new franking machines and ways to mark up commercial post cost-effectively. As interesting as this was, and helpful in expanding my knowledge of German with phrases and vocabulary that nobody, anywhere, outside of the postal service would ever use, it was quite annoying to get ambushed at 9am on a Monday morning by unsolicited and useless information.

But every now and then we get little gems that do have some relevance to our industry, but which seem to have been the brainchild of a slightly twisted genius PR, who is doing a sterling job in trying to make cynical journalists read their company news.

And this one certainly caught my eye. It was about protection. We cover protection. So I was already interested. I saw it was about home insurance - well, I thought, we don't cover home insurance but it is important to read around the subject matter, as it could have an angle for us.

So I opened it, to receive the warning:


I read it again. I was sure it had said 'home'.

But no. It definitely said 'gnome'. Now I don't know about you but my preference when it comes to garden gnomes is to take a heavy object - a baseball bat, say, or next-doors very ugly dog - and smash these ornaments out of existence. I just don't see the attraction. Garden ornaments such as slender metal herons poised by a pond, or a nice stone sundial, that I can cope with. A gnome, no. They're basically weird, staring albino smurfs that look, from several angles, like ceramic sexual predators. There's no place for a gnome in my home.

And yet here it was in black and white. People are stealing garden gnomes from houses (probably these folk should be thanked and given a mention in the New Year's Honours List) and leaving the gnome-owner out of pocket.

Apparently, in 2014, there were 11,000 incidents of loss or damage to UK gardens, and people were vastly under-insured.

Of this, 5,400 were burglaries. Now why anyone would want to steal this sort of thing is beyond my ken, but they do, and for some reason, people are upset.

Basically, this is how I see all gnomes. 

Some 10 per cent of all home insurance products do not cover your garden, so if someone steals your pot or pots (as appropriate), or pushes Matthew Henderson into the Easton's fish pond, ruining his trainers, their pond and killing all the fish, this is not covered on the home insurance policy. Of course, this is purely hypothetical and bears absolutely no resemblance to any real person or event.*

According to data from John Lewis Home Insurance, people will have to cough up, on average, £1,169 to fix the damage to property and possessions in the garden. For those who put a lot of time and effort into making their outside space pretty, that is a hefty sum to pay.

I do feel sorry for people who have invested time and energy and money into making themselves a beautiful green space, only to see things 'disappear'.

My friend's mother had a little stone Westie stolen from her lawn - a memorial of her little dog - and it was rumoured to have reappeared half a mile down the road in the 'garden' of a traveller camp. Luckily her son is also a police officer and word got out that it was his mother's stone dog that had gone missing. The dog was returned one night, none the worse for its experience.

Another friend had just bought £20,000 worth of beautiful bushes (they cost a lot to grow and maintain to a certain level before purchase), and several of these went missing before he had a chance to install them. I never asked whether his insurance covered the theft, but as he's about as financially literate as a mountain goat, I doubt it.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Well of course you can make sure that your insurance does cover such scurrilous lawn raids.

However, John Brady, head of insurance at John Lewis Home Insurance, also gives these top tips on keeping your garden secure this summer:

● Fix a good quality lock or padlock on the door of the shed, as well as any garden gates.
● Lock belongings in the shed overnight after use (barbecues, bicycles etc.), items left in the garden may not be covered for theft.
● Install automatic security lighting in the garden.
● A prickly hedge around the garden can help to deter intruders.

If all else fails, perhaps you should invest in a gnome. I've heard some of them can be pretty mean.

*This is exactly what happened and I am totally guilty.


beast said...

i got arrested for protecting my land
should have dressed as a gnome

Mermaid of Moorgate said...

That's where you went wrong. Were you dressed as Peter Hitchens?