It started as just another day in Oxfordshire, a day when every prospect pleased and only Brown was vile, and Harry Potter idly leafed through his copy of Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'.
'There's a lot to be said for the free market system', he thought to himself, 'thank heavens this country has a Conservative Party to defend and strengthen that system, to take on the state socialist European Union, and to show the world that the United Kingdom is independent of the USA. My mum certainly won't be voting for those blasted red Labour fiends!'
There came a knock at the door and Harry went to answer it, but there was no-one there so he walked out into the front garden. All he saw was a grey garden gnome in the middle of the lawn, but just as he was about to go back into the house the gnome winked at him!
'What -', he gasped in surprise, though you might have supposed that after years of being involved with witchcraft and the paranormal he wouldn't have been so surprised, and the gnome said to him: 'Oh, hello, I'm your new grey gnome.' 'Er, hello', Harry replied.
'You may be wondering what I'm doing here, and what use a grey gnome like me could be to you and your family.' 'Well -' 'Under the current back garden gnomes you have, your garden and house prices have fallen drastically, your greenhouse needs a new coat of paint, and your mum's legs have seen better days.' 'What!' 'So accept me as your new gnome.' 'But we don't need a new gnome, we're quite happy with the ones we've had for the last ten years. And what can you give our garden that we don't already have?'
'With the current gnomes, your newspapers have arrived late on three separate occasions this year, and someone let off a banger after dark last week.' 'So what?' 'And, er, your TV licence went up again by a lot.' 'But it always goes up by a lot.' 'That isn't the point, the point is that with the gnomes you have right now, the price of birdseed is -'
'Oh, shut up!', Harry shouted, and booted the grey gnome out of the front garden, 'away and boil yer heid, ya wee fat gobshite!', for Harry had been watching repeats of Taggart on the television, and all seemed well again. After his mother had returned from her belly-dancing classes, they enjoyed a 24-course meal with champagne and pate foie gras followed by deep-fried Mars bars, in honour of Taggart, then Harry went to bed.
The next morning Hermione called round at Harry's house. 'Come quick!', he said to her, and led her out to the back garden, 'a strange thing happened yesterday. A talking, annoying, grey garden gnome appeared in my garden, said it wanted to replace the gnomes we already have.'
'But - but - but -', Hermione faltered, like Tony Blair at a press conference, 'your gnomes have all gone!', and indeed they had. And so was to start the adventure of the Grey Gnome of Oxfordshire, that never said or did anything of importance but tried to hypnotise Harry Potter and Hermione into believing it did, and to make Harry accept it as his family's new garden gnome.
'We must hunt this grey gnome down!', said Harry, as the pair donned their magic wands and children's bus passes, 'we can't let it get away with stealing our garden ornaments. Come on, let's go to Little Snorklethrope', and soon the two were at that small market town, pronounced 'Little Snaughfoughboughtripe'.
'Psst!', came from a dark alleyway, as they were walking down the High Street, 'psssst!!' 'Who's there?', Hermione asked, not being able to see into the darkness. 'Look downwards', came the answer, and there beside a rubbish bin eating a prawn cocktail sandwich was none other than the little grey garden gnome that had irritated Harry yesterday afternoon.
'Oh, look, it's that bloody little grey pest again!', Harry said, taking aim with his foot, but 'No, wait!', cried the gnome, 'if you forget about your missing gnomes and put me in the garden instead, I'll triple your pocket money!' 'What!', gasped Harry and Hermione, and 'Andcutyourschoolfundingandhealthservicesandtransportsystemstopayforit', muttered the gnome incoherently, so that the two couldn't hear it. 'Just think of what you could buy with all that extra money!'
'Mmm, yes', said Harry, 'at least one more excommunication reversal from the Vatican.' 'And a new copy of 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' by J.K. Reading', added Hermione. 'Quick, there's no time to lose!', the grey gnome said, 'but you must put an invisible spell on me. Otherwise people might think it odd seeing two perfectly intelligent people following a little, grey, bland, waffling non-entity down the street, one that never says anything except 'please put me in you garden', and moans about the previous gnomes', and soon the three were walking towards the Bank of Snorklethrope.
'But apart from replacing the old gnomes, what else will you do for our garden?', Harry asked the gnome. 'The gnomes you had before made a mess of the place, even your hedge's standards have dropped. And -' 'Er, what else will you do?', Hermione repeated the question.
'I don't think you should trust this grey gnome', she whispered to Harry, 'it hasn't said anything except it'll give you more money. The gnomes you had were maybe not the best you could have had in your garden, but at least they weren't grey and bland. And they just did what gnomes do, they didn't talk to you and endlessly drone on about how bad other gnomes are. This gnome is a waste of space, don't put it in your garden.'
'You are feeling sleepy', the gnome suddenly said, 'sleepy ...', and the pair indeed began to feel drowsy, 'you are now falling under my spell. You are now in a new world, where grey gnomes are important, even though they say or do nothing except waffle nonsense to hide the fact they are just grey gnomes.'
'You will want the grey gnomes in your garden, you will dream of bicycles and prawn sandwiches, and Old Etonian chappies will seem dynamic and important, not just feeble, bland gits that speak as if they have a mental age of four. When I snap my fingers you will wake up', and it happened, and the three went into the bank.
And soon they were outside again, and Harry and Hermione were gleefully counting their money. 'Oh, how can we thank you!', Harry said to the grey one, and the gnome shrugged modestly. 'Our garden will be so nice with you in it instead of those horrible red and yellow gnomes. Wish we'd brought our bikes, Hermione', but that girl was looking thoughtful. 'Come on', the grey gnome said, 'time to take the bus back to your house, Harry', and the three were there a few hours later, after the bus had to take a detour to avoid a mass political demonstration in the streets against the last three Conservative governments.
'Why are all those people still hating and mistrusting the Conservatives after all these years?', Harry asked, 'are they some sort of unwashed, socialist ne'er-do-wells?' 'Stop!', Hermione suddenly shouted, for the word 'Conservatives' had suddenly released her from the grey gnome's spell, 'we have been hypnotised by the grey gnome!' 'What!'
'Quick, Harry, make a grab for the little grey bastard!', but the gnome quickly sideslipped them and ran down the road, shouting 'Can't catch me! Can't catch me!', but a passing tractor drove over it and crushed it, and its pieces were blown as far away as Grantham in Lincolnshire.
'So you saved us again, Hermione', Harry said, 'I would kiss you and fondle you in thanks, and generally act like a normal boy towards you, but Auntie Holly Wood wouldn't like that sort of thing.' 'Neither would J.K.Reading', she replied, 'nor her accountants. But your gnomes have gone forvever', and she sighed like a Labour MP returning her defrauded expenses to the government in the post.
'Maybe not', said Harry, 'what if we go and ask Cherie, the White Witch of Westminster, to help us get the gnomes back?' 'Too expensive', Hermione answered. 'No, there is only one who can help us now.' 'You mean?' 'No, I mean we must go to see the Devil It Is Better To Know', and both of them became a bit nervous at the thought, but soon they had flown on their broomsticks to that wizard's hideously lavish palace in the far kingdom of Fvyio.
And after suitable negotiations, donations of pocket money, general grovelling, plus punching the Devil It Is Better To Know around the palace a few times, the two flew back to Harry's garden and there once more were his family's garden gnomes.
'Well, it looks like another happy ending', Harry said, pleased that everything had worked out well in an unoriginal way, and Hermione smiled like a wholesome Walton child and agreed with him. But at that moment the back door flew open, and Harry's mum ran out into the garden crying and wailing and shrieking, and generally sounding like a singer from Liverpool on a bad day.
'What's wrong, Mum?', Harry asked her, shocked to see her behaving like a drunken Scouse git, 'what is it?' 'Pull yourself together!', Hermione ordered her, slapping her hard across the face, and 'Yeah, come on, Mum, get a grip!', added Harry, giving her an even harder slap. 'Stop acting like a crybaby!', Hermione shouted, felling her with a kung fu kick, and 'Quit the hysterics!' yelled Harry, emptying a bucket of dirty rainwater over her head. 'Thanks', his mother said, 'I needed that', and she was helped to her feet.
'Sorry about that, but I've just had the most terrible news.' 'What is it?', Harry asked her. 'All of our money, every penny we owned, was invested in the Grey Gnome Bland Eton Rifle-Waffle Consortium. But now the firm has suddenly crashed! We've lost everything!', and she started to wail and scream again, falling to her knees dramatically in despair.
'Er', said Harry, 'I think we'd better head off for a bit. Just going for a walk with Hermione', and the two walked down the driveway and into the road, before breaking into a run that would have impressed an Olympic sprinter being chased by a gang of Liverpool fans across the terraces of Heysel Stadium.
But at least J.K. Reading's accountants lived happily ever after.