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EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun -  © 1990 Chris Faiers



Chapter 13 - Dominic and the Gnome Homes

One of the strangest characters in Eel Pie, both in looks and personality, was Dominic.  He had a flaming Afro of orange hair, a bulbous nose and crinkly blue eyes. Dominic liked to wear gherkins and other medieval outfits, and he truly looked like a modern-day, full-sized gnome.

He was from Liverpool, where he bragged of being a regular at the Cavern, the club made famous for being the launching pad for The Beatles.

One sunday afternoon, as a girlfriend and I were coming out of my room, we ran into Dominic. In his thick, Scouse accent he was burbling, "You won't believe what I've just found.  Little gnome houses, a whole path of gnome houses on a winding lane.  They'll trip you out!  Go through the little gate just before the bridge and you'll see them."

We weren't sure if Dominic was on an acid trip, but his description was so fascinating we decided to take a look.  We were dubious about opening the rickety wire gate with the posted sign "RESIDENTS ONLY", but we were too intrigued to be put off. Sure enough, there they were, just as Dominic had described them with his painter's eye.  The dainty path led past hobbit house after house. Little bungalows not much bigger than dog houses.  Some of the bungalows were painted bright colours, many had elaborate gingerbread wood decorations, and all were immaculately landscaped.

Some of them looked hardly big enough for a human to enter. There were about ten of fifteen houses on each side of the path.  The last house was slightly bigger than the others, and it had a large dovecote in the side yard.

Later I learned that most of the cottages were inhabited by retired seniors, which added to the otherworldly charm of hobbit row.  In 1985 my brother and I returned to England to bury our father's ashes, and we paid a visit to Eel Pie.  The site of the hotel had been turned into a condominium development, ironically named "Aquarius".  On the way back off the island, I checked by the little gate.  Sure enough hobbit row was still there, and we were relieved that the spirit of Eel Pie was still being represented by something other than a trendy condo development:

Dove white
    against Thames brown
         dovecote




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revised 21 December 2005
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