Sources of Everyday Earplug Inspiration 2: Lavatory Fresheners

I may have mentioned, once or twice, that my camera and I seem to hang around toilets rather a lot. A strange place to find inspiration, I’m sure  you’ll agree. And you’d be right. But that doesn’t change anything. On this particular occasion I’d like to draw your attention to a little toiletry object that, perhaps, most loo-users might over-look – quite literally, if you stand up to pee. I refer, of course, to this…

You know, the simple device that does this…

They come in or sorts of shapes and…er…well…shapes…

But, boy, are they useful! Look at these natty habitat modules for use in distant places and inclement conditions…

Or maybe military outposts…

Or scientific facilities…

On all sorts of worlds…

And there’s the out-spill too, of course. The sweet-smelling stuff that the dispenser…um…dispenses. The coloured chemicals that adhere to the bowl on the way down to the water. Play with a shot of that for long enough and one can create a lava explosion…

Or, thinking bigger, a solar flare…

“Yeah, great, Tooty.” I hear you complain. “You’re an artistic genius, okay? I get that. But what the heck does any of this have to do with Earplug inspiration? I don’t see any of these bog cleaners in the Earplug Adventures!”

And you’d be right. But not for much longer. Look…

And look again…

And again…

Believe me, when I say: “Toilet fresheners are the future!”

The Causality Casualty

A few years ago – maybe four or five – I began writing the third in my ‘serious’ Causality Merchant series of sci-fi mysteries. Half way through the third draft I tossed it aside and (instead) took on the mantle of the “world’s premier earplug author”*. I keep promising myself to pick it up again and give it a second chance; but, somehow, it just never seems to happen. So, to this end, I’ve decided to give myself a metaphorical kick up the arse and try to produce some inspiration to continue. And what better way than to test out a snippet from the first book…

If the response from readers is good enough, I just might give it another try. Here it is – selected purely at random. Hope you enjoy it…

It was an hour later when Janice passed by the Study window, en route to the sideboard. Her timing was such that she witnessed Wozniak ease the slightly battered sports car into the driveway. He then drove it from sight around the end of the house. She found the packet of Band-Aids she was looking for in a drawer, and quickly made her way into the hallway, where she opened the front door – leaving it slightly ajar.

A half-minute later Wozniak slipped into the house. As carefully as his big frame would allow, he crept to the kitchen door, which Janice had also deliberately left ajar for him, and paused to listen.

Katherine Marcus was sitting at the table as Janice gently applied a Band-Aid to a small wound upon her forehead.

“There, that should keep the bugs at bay.” Janice said in a satisfied tone.

Katherine was clearly still suffering from a degree of shock – as well as a splitting headache; but she still managed a smile of thanks to Janice.

Janice may not have believed that this Katherine Marcus seated before her was in anyway different to the Katherine Marcus who verbally abused her on an almost daily basis; but if the woman was going to play the role of innocent victim, Janice was all for going along with it – just to see how far the other woman was prepared to go. Why Marcus was doing this to Peter remained a mystery to her: But if her friend and employer needed his help – and clearly he did – she was prepared to go to pretty much any length to be there for him. To this end she regarded Katherine with a friendly demeanour as she placed the kettle upon the stove.

“I expect you’d like a nice hot cup of tea after that nasty bang.”

“Sorry…?” Katherine tried to find a name.

“Janice Gale.” Janice replied with a smile upon her face. “I’m the housekeeper here: The ‘woman who does’. Do you take sugar in your tea?”

Katherine appeared confused.

“Tea?” She inquired through a puzzled expression.

It’s a good act’, Janice thought, as she smiled sweetly in response. Out loud she said, “Perhaps you’d prefer coffee? It’s only instant I’m afraid: the coffee machine sprang a leak weeks ago, and I haven’t got round to mending it yet.”

Katherine appeared grateful at the suggestion:

“Coffee would be wonderful. Perhaps you have something for pain too? I have a headache the size of Wycksford.”

Janice’s eyes narrowed at the mention of the imaginary village. She knew for certain that the illusionary village of Wycksford did not exist; and Marcus must surely know that she knew.

What is this woman up to?’ She asked herself. Then a sudden thought struck that caused Janice to feel very uncomfortable in her presence. ‘Heavens: Maybe she’s schizoid: She could be as mad as a March hare!’

“Certainly,” she said in the most matronly manner she could muster, “but I don’t think I have any aspirins: would paracetamols do? You’re not allergic, or anything?”

Katherine shook her head. “I don’t know what paracetamols are. I might be allergic to them. I don’t know. I suffer quite a few allergies you know. Are you sure you don’t have aspirins? I think my head’s about to explode.”

“Well I could look in the bathroom.” Janice replied – uncertain if she should leave the strange woman alone in the kitchen. “There might be an old packet lying about in the cabinet. Just wait here a moment; I’ll take a look.”

Janice quickly exited the kitchen – where she found Wozniak skulking in the shadows of the hall.

“Did you see that?” He whispered as he made sure that the kitchen door was closed securely behind Janice. “She’s never heard of something as dull and ordinary as paracetamol: surely that must mean something.”

Janice brushed past him toward the stairs.

“She’s never heard of tea either, apparently. What does it mean? It means that she’s probably suffering from concussion. Now I’m going to see if I can find some aspirins. Then I really think we should take her to a doctor.”

Wozniak pounced upon this.

“Then you think she’s behaving oddly too?”

Janice started up the stairs.

“I always think she’s behaving oddly: she’s an odd woman. But she could also be play-acting, or suffering from some form of schizophrenia. But whichever it is – that head wound is real enough.”

Wozniak pursued Janice up the stairs, speaking louder with every step:

“I saw you jump when she mentioned Wycksford: doesn’t that suggest something?”

“What?” Janice stopped upon the stair for a moment. She was becoming frustrated with a situation – the like of which she had never experienced before. She felt ill equipped to handle it sensibly anymore. This was definitely ‘Wozniak Territory’.

“What does it suggest?” She snapped. “Nothing: that’s what. Of course she mentioned Wycksford.” She said desperately. “She invented the damned place!”

With that she continued upon her way up the stair, and entered the bathroom. There she began going through the contents of the vanity unit.

“No, Janice; you’re wrong:” Wozniak appeared at the head of the stairs. He shook his head. “She mentioned Wycksford because to her it’s a real place. Somewhere she knows well. Home perhaps. The way she described her headache suggests that it’s quite a big place too.”

Janice emerged from the vanity unit clutching a foil wrapper containing just two tablets.

“Look I don’t care right now.” She said. “I’m going to take that woman these last two aspirins in the house; and then perhaps we’ll take a little air in the garden. I take it you’ve hidden the car sufficiently well?”

“In the garage.” Wozniak replied whilst letting Janice past. “I’ll watch from the window.”

“Whatever.” Janice spoke curtly over her shoulder as she descended the stair.

I’m pushing too hard’, Wozniak thought to himself as he heard the kitchen door open, and Janice’s gentle voice offering Katherine the aspirins; ‘Just let the facts speak for themselves’.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

This book, and it’s sequel, are available at Lulu, iBooks, Amazon and Barnes & Noble (see sidebar or relevant page beneath the header) and most other e-book stockists. The paperback is available at

* Quote from a work colleague who is a supportive follower of my earplug escapades and who has often supplied me with the raw materials required to shoot the pictures. i.e earplugs.

The Photographer’s Eye 1: Seeing What Isn’t There: Negativity

I’m no photographer. Heck, I only use point and shoot cameras. But I use an awful lot of ’em and I do have a photographer’s eye. I know this latter observation to be true because I see potentialities in a scene that, perhaps, others don’t. I use this…um…skill…to bring to life scenes of other worlds in my Earplug Adventures. I also use it purely for it’s artistic merit. One of these…er…skills…is to see, in advance, how a scene might work in reverse. Or, to put it another way, I ask myself what would the negative of this photo look like? And, more importantly, how can I use that effect? Well yesterday I found myself with a couple of free minutes at work and duly dug out a compact from the bottom of my work bag. Hours later, after fiddling with the consequent plethora of snaps on my computer, three of the results looked exactly like this…

A happy Space Slug, crawling along a galactic string in orbit above night time Earth.

Scary alien space craft emerging from a nebula.

Banking to port aboard an aircraft as it approaches a coastal city at night.

Hopefully you will have no idea what the original (positive) shots looked like. I like to surprise whenever possible. Can you recognise any of them? If not, read on…

We’ll start with the last picture. A colleague watched as I tossed some sawdust upon the floor – then hit it with a blast of compressed air…

“You’re gonna take a picture of that aren’t you?” He said. “What’s it gonna be this time?”

Well now he knows. But I demanded more from it and it also doubled up when I used a squashed version of it to combine with this peeling render in a disused lavatory block…

…to create the Space Slug…

And as regards the alien space ship…

Well that was easy. From the same disused lavatory block – for which I appear to have an affinity (I’ve certainly taken a disproportionate number of pictures in several of them in the past few years) – may I present….a disgusting urinal!

There you have it – inspiration comes in many forms. You just have to see past the obvious. And yes, that urinal did pong. I suffer horribly for my art.