Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

We’ve had kids stealing our garden gnomes for years. Some came back, some didn’t, and some sent me postcards, usually from Skegness or Blackpool. As years went by, those kids did well. Our wandering gnomes sent postcards from Ibiza and Goa.

The second generation of gnome-nickers went alternate. We got a card from Burning Man and an envelope from Rio containing a risqué selfie, featuring one of our gnomes, that made the wife blush.

I had an idea: I set up a Twitter account so our gnomes could ‘phone home’. I engraved the password on the bottom of each gnome. I’ve only had one idiot reset the password; the inhabitants of the Twitterverse tore him to pieces. Our wandering gnomes have built up quite a following.

Then ‘Ricky’, one of our veteran wanderers, disappeared. We heard nothing for months. The missus and I were beside ourselves. Losing one of our old boys was especially hard.

That Christmas Eve, my phone ‘cheeped’ – a tweet from one of our wanderers had arrived. I opened Twitter and beheld a glorious sunset over a snow-flecked beach, with twin moons above and Ricky perched on a purple rock in the foreground. The accompanying text read “Merry Christmas from Rixneon! We hope you’re all well!”

Unsurprisingly, the tweet caused a bit of a sensation. The photo got vetted to hell and gone, but no revelations were forthcoming. Everybody assumed it was an elaborate hoax.

Three months into the new year, another mysterious tweet arrived: “Hola from Brigdibdis! Having a wonderful time!”. The picture showed Ricky waist-deep in some scarlet liquid with a huge, light-emitting jellyfish-ish thing hanging in the air behind. The liquid extended away into the distance, lit by other jelly things hanging above other groups of people. Some of them looked right odd. The wife said they were ‘cosplayers’. The furor over the second photo was even bigger, but nobody could work out how it had been faked.

Two years after he left, we opened the door early one morning to find Ricky on the doorstep, next to a shiny green stone. There was a drone hovering nearby, and a trio of black trucks acting as a backdrop for the dozen smart-dressed men and women peering over our front fence with looks of embarrassed surprise on their faces.

They excused themselves and departed right quick, leaving a man from HMRC – who had a set of forms for us to fill in regarding our recently discovered ‘heirloom emerald’ – and a woman from the Crown Assayers, who stated she had been “granted power to act”. Which meant she made a substantial cash offer for the emerald on the spot. The man from the HMRC got to fill in the ‘value’ boxes on his forms and by the time they left with gemstone and forms, our bank balance was a lot bigger.

Two months ago, Ricky went missing again. We’ve not had a tweet or even a postcard (some of our ‘borrowers’ still prefer doing things the old way). Herself reckons it’ll be a month or so before the interplanetary gnome-nappers check-in.

If we get another stone like the last one, we’ll be able to make a hefty offer for next door. Give us a bigger garden with room for more gnomes. Besides, the missus says petunias would grow nicely on her next door’s rockery.