It was well known in Dingley Dell that the Fletchers had run the Sugar Mill for many generations. What was less well known was that in all that time it had been run by the same Fletcher. Old Fletcher the sugar gnome. He had originally arrived in Dingley Dell with nothing more than a handcart. He had a sack of sugar that no-one was interested in at all, as they had all lived quite happily without this new and expensive product. He also had some smaller bags of other commodities and it was these he set up a stall to sell. He put up a sign that said“Cocoa bars , price one carrot”“Coffee, price one potato”Passers-by would stop to see what he was selling and it did seem very reasonable. A luxury like Coffee or Cocoa Bars for just a potato or a carrot. Word spread like wildfire and each day when he arrived to set up his stall there would be a long queue all eager to buy. Then Fletcher started introducing new lines.“Lemons, price one carrot”“Green Tea, price one carrot”.All these rare and sought after products were becoming more and more popular with everyone in the village. Everyday he would bring the big bag of sugar but still no one wanted it, One of his customers was Miss Tabatha (yes, that’s how she spelt it) Rabbit who ran the tea shop (narrator’s note: this was the great great grandmother of Norbuttley Rabbit although she didn’t know it back then). She was doing a great trade selling tea, coffee and chocolate cake. But some of her customers had been saying they were finding her delightful and quaint afternoon refreshments just a little….well…bitter. She was the first to ask Fletcher for a small bag of sugar, just to take the edge of the bitter coffee and chocolate. “Certainly said Fletcher. The price is one brick”. Fortunately for Miss Rabbit she did know someone who worked down at the new port that was under construction. He could get her a few bricks.So everyone was happy. Norman Rabbit, the “someone” who Tabatha knew (and would later get to know a lot better) was happy to be helping her out. Tabatha was happy to be suppling her customers with sweeter tea, coffee and cakes. The villages were all happy as word spread about the lovely tea shop, and of course Fletcher was happy as within just a few weeks he was selling bags and bags of sugar and gathering up a large quantity of bricks. As Fletcher didn’t eat potatoes or carrots he was soon able to buy mortar and employ a bricklayer and soon had a small brick built shop to replace his hand cart and stall. This was the beginning of what would slowly develop into the Grand Dingley Dell Sugar Mill.
Now you might be wondering how Fletcher could afford to exchange luxury items for such cheap things as carrots and potatoes. Well, its simple. Fletcher came from a place called LAND. The climate in LAND was ideal for growing sugar, coffee and cocoa plants but terrible for growing carrots and potatoes. For quite a long time the occupants of LAND didn’t know anywhere else existed. There was LAND and SEA. That’s all. Then Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins (a very Noble and dignified looking Zebra in a grand uniform with plenty of braid, a peaked hat and more medals than his broad chest could really accommodate) arrived on a ship looking for a faster route to OFFERSLAND. He had told them about the other places. This opened up a new trading route and Fletcher had decided this was the opportunity he needed. There really was no point in trying to trade in Sugar in LAND as everyone already had more than they could possibly use. The exporting process in Sugar Gnome culture is difficult to explain. “Other” sugar gnomes would ship Sugar, Coffee and Cocoa out to Fletcher. But in the culture of Sugar Gnomes there really wasn’t the concept of “other”. To try to explain this, imagine you have four bags of sugar. There is one bag plus three “others”. Now pour all four bags of sugar into one bag. There is still the same quantity of sugar but now there are no “others”. For practical and logistical purposes you might need to pour the sugar into separate bags but the concept of one bag of sugar owing or exchanging goods with another bag of sugar is senseless. It’s probably not worth trying to get your head around this. Just accept it as Sugar Gnome culture. Fletcher received sugar, coffee and cocoa and no one expected anything in return. Everyone was happy.After a while the immigrants from LAND started to refer to LAND as OLDLAND.
Now if we might return to the present day. Old Fletcher’s Grand Sugar Mill has grown into a huge Sugar empire where he exports his Sugar products to every known town and city that has been built or discovered. But to really understand Old Fletcher you need to understand Sugar Gnomes.
Sugar Gnomes are not social creatures. Maybe “creatures” is not the right word. Maybe “entities” is better. But then maybe “social” isn’t the right word either. They are not really part of a society to be social in or really to be engaging with other societies. We can keep the word “Social” if we think of societies as organisations. Sugar Gnomes do organisation big time. So while we cannot call them social creatures we can call them organised entities. This is why Old Fletcher got on so well with his robots, automated processes and his magical Trollies. You might even be forgiven for thinking that lending his musical robots to the villagers on special occasions was a social act of kindness. You would of course be wrong there too. It was organisational marketing. However, if you didn’t think about it at all, he appeared as quite a lovable old character.
(Narrator’s note: Throughout this story we have been referring to Old Fletcher with the personal pronouns of “he”,”him”,”his”. They are not the right words either but I think we should not pull on that thread right now).