Climatic Calamity (part 20)

With the horror of the author’s backside on display out of the way, let’s get on with episode 20…

Meanwhile, Celestino was having no such problems, despite following very closely to the red triangle’s rear…

…as they traversed a pleasant mauve corridor.

“Nice shade of purple.” Celestino remarked.

“Mauve.” The red triangle corrected him. “Purple is darker. It’s a common mistake to make. I must have done it six or seven times during my development.”

Celestino absorbed this. He then had a thought…

…”Say, I don’t know how to address you: do you have a name?”

“That would be a negative.” The tall red device replied as they progressed along the corridor like dissimilar twins.

“Would you like a name?” Celestino inquired. “I can make one up, you know. I’m very good at that.”

The response was instantaneous. Eagerly the red triangle said:

“How good – on a scale of one to ten?”

“Ten.” Celestino replied adamantly. “On a good day – eleven!”

“Go on then.” The machine urged. “Make me up a name. Make it memorable though.”

“Would you like one name – like…say…Burper?” Celestino inquired further. “Or would you prefer two – like I have, but obviously not Celestino Candalabra; that would only cause confusion.”

The red triangle was used to thinking on its metaphorical feet: “Give me an example of both: I’ll choose the best.”

“Okay,” Celestino said as he engaged the creative region of his silicon brain, “how about…Bubbles Gloor or Carson Spewk?”

The red triangle would have nodded in thought, but it possessed neither a head nor a neck. “Try a couple of single names.” It said.

Celestino was happy to. He chose Peggy and Losterum. Then, as a sudden after thought, he added, Bumwipe.

The soon-to-be recipient of a moniker said, “I think I’ll go with Peggy. With sufficient time, I think you could probably create a better name; but I’m satisfied with my choice. I assume I can change it later if I so desire?”

“Yeah, of course.” Celestino replied as they moved from the mauve corridor into a green one…

It was at that moment that the earplug spotted an object of great desire.

“That…that…that isn’t a toilet, by any chance, is it?” He asked excitedly.

“It certainly is, Peggy replied. “Want to use it? Jump in: I’ll keep watch.”

Moments later…

“When you said you’d keep watch,” Celestino said timidly, “I didn’t realise you meant to watch me. Could you avert your gaze for a moment?”

Peggy obliged by peering at an imperfection in the ceiling.

“I’ve never noticed that before.” It said.

Then it was time to use the alien flush. When he did so, Celestino was in for a surprise…

“Ooh,” he said, it’s emptied into a large room below. There seems to be some strange trees growing in it.”

“Ah,” Peggy responded,” that would be our destination. But there’s no need to clamber through the effluent hatch: I know a much cleaner route.”

Two minutes later…

…Celestino found himself looking up at some trees that he considered very odd indeed.

“I consider these trees to look very odd indeed.” He informed his guide. “Why are we here?”

“The antidote.” Peggy replied.

Celestino considered the possibility that the alien device was joking. “I have to cut down a tree and drag it back to Earth?” He asked.

“No, you silly silicon sausage,” Peggy answered. “You collect the Seeds of Change from the seed pods. Right up you go – upon my equivalent of shoulders.”

Teetering on the brink of a nasty fall, Celestino released his grip upon Peggy and began feeling the seed pods.

“You’ll only need a handful.” Peggy informed him. “Choose only the most voluminous pods.”

So the earplug did…

…and, as success reared its beautiful visage, he began to smile.

“I’ve got five.” He called down. “Is that enough?”

“More than enough.” Peggy replied. “I wasn’t designed for this sort of activity: I’m experiencing structural failure.”

With that, they both fell to the floor…

…which left Peggy dazed, and Celestino bruised, but smiling.

“Yes.” He cheered quietly to himself.

Then, when Peggy had revived, they departed as conquerors…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Did you see any of that coming? I’d like to think that was an original idea. But there’s…what, six billions…of us? Someone must have thought of that at least once before. But did they combine the idea with earplugs?  Probably not. Does it matter? In the grand scheme of things, not one jot.

P.S Using that reverse angle shot through the lavatory waste: inspired…or disgusting? You vote.

Tooty the Chef and the Sweet Pork Thingamabobs

Tooty the Chef quite enjoys making chicken goujons. He’s not demonstratively adept at them, but they taste quite pleasant, even though they tend to bind together in  one huge roasted lump that needs separating with a jackhammer. Well, on this particular day the wonder-cook  discovered that he lacked a vital ingredient for chicken goujons: chicken. So he selected a pack of chilled pork instead…

Pork goujons, I guess. Naturally he sliced off the (already trimmed) nasty fatty bits. You know how he feels about them. Almost as bad as a dose of the clap…

So far, so good. Slicing them into chicken goujon-like strips couldn’t have been easier – what with him  using only the best pork available. i.e it didn’t come from Asda…

It was upon completion of this most important phase in the procedure that he discovered that he was sans / sin another necessary ingredient.

Does this guy ever plan his meals? No – he wings every one of them, obviously.

This time it was the binding agent for the breadcrumbs. He’d used the last of his eggs on the most recent batch of Tooty’s Tapas Cakes! What to do? Stand back – genius at work…

From the Exotic Foodstuffs cupboard, he selected some cinnamon flavoured honey from…you guessed it…Spain! This went in the pan for a quick melting action…

Then, with the heat off, the pork thingamabobs joined the honey, and were sloshed about until liberally coated…

After that it was a simple task to dig out the remains of his Waitrose breadcrumbs, and mix up a bunch of spices…

…blending them together with a deft flick of an experienced wrist…

…before tipping the last of the freezer’s oven chips on to a roasting tray and coating them with some Patatas Bravas mix…

Once the chips were ready to enter the oven, Tooty coated the pork with the breadcrumbs by simply mixing them together…

…then spreading them on a  roasting tray and shoving them in the oven with the chips, which went on the slightly cooler (less volcanic) upper shelf. This, nearly a half hour later, resulted in much the same manner as his chicken goujons…

…a dry lump of unrecognisable yumminess. But that was no problem for Tooty the Chef: he simply added some moisture – in the shape of a tin of baked beans. Isn’t that what all great chefs do?

Climatic Calamity (part 19)

In part 19 we discover who the culprit is. If you’re a long-term Earplugger, you’ll have probably guessed already. Well here’s confirmation of your conjecture…

Whilst Celestino’s quest was meeting with definite success, Erronious and Hellfire’s less so. A loud clearing of a vast throat caused them to look up from the corridor along which they were being led. Erronious wasn’t enthralled by what he saw. Hellfire was simply horrified…

“It’s…it’s…” He stammered.

“No it’s not.” Erronious said more calmly. “It just looks like him.”

“Huh,” the Wonky Fake Supreme Being looked down his considerable nose at the tiny, puny, almost insignificant earplugs below him, “how do you know I’m not the Supreme Being? I look exactly like him. I’m really powerful and frightfully handsome. You can’t possibly be that certain!”

Whilst Hellfire tried to bring his recalcitrant bowel under control, Erronious blew a loud ‘raspberry’…

“Because,” he said whilst trying to conjure up some more saliva for a second burst, “the proper Supreme Being wears glasses. And he has a meatier bum too.”

Wonky SB tittered at Erronious’ temerity…

“My,” he said, “I wonder if he knows his rear end is held in such esteem. When, eventually I defeat him, I’ll keep that little known fact to myself. Now step up here, little people, I’d like a word.”

With that he reached down and plucked the daring duo from the ground…

Having done so in one of the most uncomfortable manners possible, he said:

“I don’t know you two. Don’t tell me your names: I don’t want to know. I was rather betting that it would be the Earplug Brothers who wound up here in the hind end of space with me. Instead I get you two. I’m not overly pleased with this situation, because…”

At that point the Wonky Fake Supreme Being went ape…

“I bloody hate the Earplug Brothers!” He roared. “And that sodding green thing that one of the twins is involved with. And as regards to Magnuss’ wife…”

“Hair-Trigger.” Hellfire said helpfully.

“Is that her name?” Wonky calmed slightly to absorb this information. “Hair-Trigger? What a bloody silly name. I hate it. But I only hate it half as much as I hate Magnuss. I want him here. I want to see him suffer. You two…you two are just wasting my time. I can’t even be bothered with you. Sod off back to doing whatever you think you’re doing. What are you doing, anyway? Don’t answer that: I don’t want to know.”

All the while he had been waving Erronious and Hellfire above the tall towers of Vacuum City…

…which scared the heck out of them. But if that wasn’t sufficient to ruin their day, he then hung them between his outstretched fingers…

Naturally they had failed to hear a word he’d said following Hellfire’s two spoken words. So when he finally lowered them back to the ground…

…they weren’t entirely compos mentis…

And the Wonky SB had shoved some very silly hats on their heads too, which didn’t help the situation at all – though it did amuse the pseudo-God. But worse was to come. Silly hats were the least of the brave earplug’s worries. Their sensibilities were to be tested to the utmost. The Wonky Supreme Being dropped his pants and showed them his inferior arse!

“Oh, by the Saint of All Earplugs!” Hellfire wailed in horror. But he couldn’t think of anything meaningful to add.

Erronious merely breathed through his mouth and prayed that the insensitive monster didn’t break wind.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, I bet you saw that one coming! And if you didn’t – well what a pleasant surprise.

P.S Had to be careful with the arse shot. The first two attempts showed rather more than this blog allows.

P.P.S It’s somewhat disturbing to note how the Wonky SB appears to have aged so much since their first encounter!

Climatic Calamity (part 18)

In episode 18 we meet a new character. A very important character. A strange one too. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble spotting it. Hint: it’s not an earplug. In fact I don’t know what it is.

Good fortune smiled upon Celestino that day / night / or whatever it was on the lonely planetoid. The device read his mind and delivered the instructions to him in a language he could understand. “Hola, buenas dias,” it began, and then carried on until the end, when it said, “Fin. Auf wiedersehen.” The result of this education was his immediate relocation to another room, in which he discovered a large spiky ball that perfectly matched the item about which the previous machine had spoken. He pressed the ‘Go’ button, then stepped back to wait in concerned anticipation…

Would the machine actually work? Were its components still intact? Had it lain unused for so long that it couldn’t be bothered to reactivate? All these questions, and more – like ‘Where’s the toilet?’- ran through his fevered mind.

Still following the abusive signage, Erronious and Hellfire wondered how close Celestino was staying to them…

But, of course, they had no idea that he wasn’t interested in the least about where they were, and that, now ten seconds into his wait, Celestino watched as the colour at the spiky ball machine’s base altered…

“Um…hi,” he said as he moved closer to the green apparition…

…”I’m told that you are a device that was built by an ancient and highly technological civilisation.”

It was a statement made to sound like a question. The spiky ball recognised it as such. “Yes,” it replied in a fair facsimile of an earplug’s voice, but slightly more pleasant with a slight echo, “that’s right. Who are you, and what do you want?”

This reply surprised Celestino. He found himself warming to the machine. “Very abrupt.” He said back. “I like it. My name is Celestino Candalabra: what I want is the antidote to a terrible climatic change that had been brought to the world upon which I live by something from this planetoid. It was a bright light that attached itself to a spaceship, which landed upon my world, whereupon it detached itself; gained energy from an unknown source; and then activated – bringing forth an instantaneous ice-age for many kilometres in every direction. By now, I fear, the storm may have engulfed the surface of the entire planet.”

“Wow,” the machine responded, “that was a mouthful: with a vocabulary and verbal dexterity like that you should become a rapper – that is a ‘rap artist’. Do they have ‘rap artists’ on your world? Hey, maybe you should take a sit down and catch your breath.”

“No, it’s okay.” Celestino replied. “I live alone in a mountainside cave: I talk to myself a lot. I’m well used to it. Well – do you have what I need?”

“Not upon my person, you should understand.” The machine said to this. “But check this out.”

With that it transformed into a different configuration that almost stunned Celestino into a coma…

“Neat, huh?” The blue dome said. “Now watch as I turn a nice shade of peach…

…and tell you something about my origin.”

Celestino’s smile was wan: he’d already figured he was in for a long lecture, and he wasn’t sure his knees were up to standing around immobile for too long. “Great.” He replied.

“A long time ago,” the peach dome began, the “Schmerglies lived on a lovely world that was lit by two suns that perpetually tore matter from one another and so warmed the planetary system…

“Crumbs,” Celestino said as he watched the image of the twin-stars as they appeared in the air before him – much as he had displayed images of the weather attack to Erronious and Hellfire in his cave, “spectacular. But surely it couldn’t have been a never ending cycle of give and take between the two suns. There must have been some leakage of matter and energy.”

“Nah,” the peach dome replied, “it was spot-on perfect – until the Schmerglies figured they could tap into it, and solve all their power-generation problems in one fell swoop. Needless to say, as they drew energy away from the cyclical nature of the exchange…

…it got…and I use a technical term here with which you might not be familiar; it got buggered up. The Schmerglies’ tech guys couldn’t control it. It got…ah…”

“Buggered up?” Celestino suggested.

“Yeah,” the peach dome said appreciatively, “and, as a result, the entire system became sub-atomically unstable. Some tech stopped working. And being sub-atomically unstable, there was a better than evens chance that something would de-stabilize it so badly that it would simply explode…

…So they sodded off somewhere else in the galaxy, and left this planetoid behind to warn-off anyone considering the exploitation of the remaining energy resources.”

“Fine.” Celestino said to this. “But why did they leave all this tech here. Why a climate-wrecking device, for example? Wasn’t that just a tad irresponsible?”

The peach dome agreed wholeheartedly. “Too right it was, chum.” It said. “And I would have argued against it. But they figured, since they’d gone to the trouble and expense of inventing it, and that it was too dangerous to take with them, they thought they’d leave it all behind as a kind of memorial to, or celebration of, their greatness.”

“Big headed sods, then?” Celestino sniffed his disdain.

“Ooh, yeah.” The alien device agreed. “Pompous gits too. I’m almost embarrassed to be a product of their ridiculous society. One good thing about them, though: whenever they created something nasty, they always made a countermeasure. That antidote you wanted…?

Again the device transformed…

“This is the mobile me.” The red, one-eyed, backward-sloping triangle said by way of introduction. “Now we walk.”

“Walk?” A horrified Celestino wailed. “Haven’t I walked far enough? And I stood around for ages while you showed me that slide show!”

In reply to this, the red triangle said, “You want the antidote, don’t you?”

So, moments later…

…the residual glow of the second transformation subsided, and the earplug realised he had no alternative.

“Oui.” He said, though he had no idea why he’d used French.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S What is that thing? I found it in my ‘parts’ bin. Anyone recognize it?

Tooty’s Tapas Cakes – New and Improved

The first bunch of tapas cakes were fine, but they weren’t so scrummy that Tooty the Chef found that the cake tin had suspiciously emptied itself whilst his back was turned. Obviously, for such a gifted wielder of the ladle and other kitchen paraphernalia, this simply wasn’t good enough. So he set himself to the task again…

This time he substituted the soft brown sugar with white sugar and artificial sucrose.

The sugar / egg combo was then beaten for twice as long. Then after adding the cake mix…

…he beat that for twice as long too. Tooty doesn’t do things in half measures, you know! Now any regular cook would have been content to carry on as before; but not Tooty the Chef. No, he peeled, chopped. and stewed two apples (that he found laying at the side of the road in a shopping bag), and added them to the mix…

The result, after careful and attentive baking, looked precisely like this…

And after he’d done his top and tailing with the fondant icing between the layers, the result appeared rather more visually pleasing that the original effort…

Better still, they disappeared with alarming alacrity. Definitely a success – even by Tooty the Chef’s bullshit standards!

 

 

Climatic Calamity (part 17)

If you pay close attention, you will find that in part 17 the padding mentioned in part 16 kinda dribbles out, and the story itself begins to move forward again. This is a good thing. Read on…

It was about at that time, but far away, outside the monastery in the mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone…

…when the recently appointed Father Superior – formerly known as Cyril Bucket – wandered out into the snow and had an excellent idea. Well he thought it was an excellent idea. Often, as he had gone about his previous business (as a grass verge mower) in Lemon Stone, he had paused to watch the atomic missile tests upon the plain below. He never forgot the image. So, using both his telephone and his ecumenical ‘clout’, he persuaded the missile technicians in their snowed-in facility that it would be a good idea to ‘nuke’ the storm. Frightened that they might lose their jobs, they agreed to try a few missiles on the ice-age, and duly launched them…

But it was all to no avail. They hadn’t worked well in perfect conditions: in the freezing cold and high winds, they simply fell from the sky like so many damp, but very expensive, squibs. But it wasn’t a complete loss: the resulting explosions were bright enough to guide some lost souls to safety…

…and give the technicians something to do – like clearing up the resulting mess and pulling duds out of the snow…

Shortly after that conditions worsened even further, so that even the armoured personnel carriers had to be brought inside…

…and parked on the main thoroughfares.

Chapter 7

Meanwhile, far across the gulfs of space, Erronious and Hellfire had successfully proceeded from the Drunkard’s Vomit; through an air lock; and thence into the habitable portion of Vacuum City…

Any concerns over the direction in which they should go were circumvented by signage that appeared before them as they approached…

Some of it could have been worded more respectfully – or so opined Hellfire…

Erronious agreed. “How rude!” He said in disgust.

As per his plan, Celestino maintained a respectful distance. Well actually he didn’t: he took an entirely different route…

In doing so he discovered a very important…ah…discovery

Despite being a recluse, the ‘See-er’ was well versed in things technological. It took him about three nanoseconds to recognise the vast yellow device as a library. However several complete seconds elapsed before he figured how to work it. In doing so he realised that it was a school teaching-machine, intended for children, the poorly educated, and dumbos.

“Oh dear,” he said silently to himself, “does that mean I’m a dumbo? Well I do live alone in a cave, so I suppose I must be. But whatever; let’s see what this thing has up its non-existential sleeve.”

What the machine had was…

…a user guide for another device that was kept elsewhere. Initially Celestino felt tempted to move on, but something stayed his feet. Might this lead him to the very secret he sought? It seemed too easy; but he wouldn’t allow that thought to become uppermost in his mental processes. Sometimes, he recalled, the best things in life are the simplest ones. Maybe it was also true of quests for antidotes to ice-ages. He stopped cogitating and pressed the ‘Play’ button.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now I think you’ll agree, as padding goes, that padding was well worth including. It was very silly. It was actually inspired by a rumour I once heard that when Donald Trump was in the White House, he suggested protecting New Orleans (or somewhere in that hurricane-stricken area) by ‘nuking’ the approaching hurricane. Whether this was true, I don’t know: but I thought I’d add my version to this story anyway.

The Christmas Chainsaw Massacre

For uncounted eons my wife and I would bake and decorate a cake for Christmas. The cake was always nice because she baked it. The decoration was always humorously terrible because I was the major contributor. In her final couple of years she gave up the baking, so we bought a cake instead, which we decorated in the usual manner – that being ineptly. It always caused a giggle, and we always gave it a title too. Whilst browsing through the quadrillion-or-so photos on my computer I chanced upon this one. From 2016: a rather macabre Christmas cake. The Christmas Chainsaw Massacre. I’ve not seen Santa in the same light since.

Does it make a nice Christmas wallpaper though? I’d like to think so.

Climatic Calamity (part 16)

I know you’ve been champing at the bit for the next episode (or is that ‘Chomping on your bits’?), so here it is…

Farther back, Celestino turned from the screen and whispered to Erronious and Hellfire:

“It’s lying. I can sense it. There is no one by the name of Corbin Commijerk. It just made that up on the spur of the moment. In fact I doubt that is a real creature at all. Or a robot, for that matter. No, I suspect it’s an animation designed to comfort us in the hope that we will lower our guard.”

“But what choice do we have?” Erronious whispered back. “We need that antidote to climate change: everywhere else is just…” He floundered – unable to think of a descriptive term.

“Sub-atomic unstableness?” Hellfire suggested.

“Yes,” Erronious nodded gratefully, “sub-atomic unstableness. There’s nothing else out there. This must be the place that made the weather weapon. Corbin might be unreal; but this planetoid is the only tangible object for millions of miles around – even if Corbin is an animation.” 

Unbeknownst to the trio of earplugs, the Captain had been listening to their conversation via his anally-analogous microphone. As a close-up of the brightly lit Vacuum City appeared on-screen, the mauve robot turned and said… 

…“Your concerns are duly noted, gentlemen. We will proceed with utmost care. We must take nothing for granted. Question everything we see and hear.”

“And smell.” The First Officer added.

“Yes, and smell too.” The Captain agreed. “Gas smells, so we should prepare ourselves for that. But, as you say, Mister Bosche we are here upon a mission: and we must risk everything to accomplish it. The ship is about to enter the city. Be ready for anything.”

With a deft touch that only an automaton can really display, the Drunkard’s Vomit settled upon the deck – or floor – of (what everyone assumed was) a hangar…

An audio message then welcomed anyone who wished to leave the ship – inviting them to join Corbin in his office for a nice cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. Naturally the robots, bereft of a stomach or taste buds, declined. This left the three earplugs to step into the strangely metallic-tasting air of Vacuum City…

“You go ahead.” Celestino said quietly. “I’ll hang back and keep an eye out for…um…things. Hopefully my talent will warn me against any dangers. And, you never know, it might also tell me if I stumble over the ice-age antidote in the process.”

It was a less-than-perfect plan; but in the absence of another, Erronious and Hellfire decided to go with it. “Yeah, okay.” Erronious said doubtfully. “Wish us luck.”

Meanwhile, uncountable millions of miles distant, upon Earth, or, to be more precise, the Museum of Future Technology…

…the widespread use of armoured personnel carriers assisted the museum staff, as they searched the environs for lost inhabitants and customers; then return them to the dubious safety of the vast edifice. These were supplemented by mountain rescue teams – each of which had one member with special goggles for seeing through whiteouts…

“I wish I had a pair of whiteout goggles.” The red mountain rescue earplug said to the green earplug. “All I can see is the back of your head.”

“What about my bum?” The green earplug inquired.

 “What about your bum?”

“Can you see it?”

The red earplug snorted his contempt. “No, of course I can’t.” He snapped. “You’re wearing your fluffy mountain rescue regulation thermal pants.”

“Oh good,” the green earplug responded, “My arse is so cold that, for a moment I thought I might have forgotten to put them on.”

In the relative warmth of the museum, Crudlove Twang and Spodney Gridlock – of the volunteer group known as the Yabu Youth – watched a TV wall screen that showed the proceeding rescue efforts…

Spodney was in the middle of a suggestion that they join it, when a blue earplug fell on her arse outside on the balcony.

“Nah, I don’t think so.” Crudlove replied as she eyed a small Café Puke poster beside the window. “It’s cold enough for me in here.”

Naturally Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had been amongst the first to volunteer. They, in particular, had gone to the beleaguered Ciudad de Droxford…

“Oh look, Magnuss,” Hair-Trigger squealed, “someone has managed to erect a sign that reads ‘help`. Let’s pray we’re not too late.”

However, as they proceeded into a snow cave…

…Magnuss discovered that it led to a huge sink hole that, in order to escape it, he was forced to use his emergency jet pack…

“Well it just goes to show,” Hair-Trigger said as they returned to the museum with other volunteers – including the black-helmeted Fascist convention attendees…

… “that even in these terrible times, there are earplugs who haven’t lost their sense of humour.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Strictly speaking the majority of this episode is ‘padding’. It doesn’t really move the story on; but it does allow me to remind readers of other characters that have appeared before – and thereby give the story arc some continuity. It also allows me to use pictures that I have slaved over – or just plain like – in a story – instead of having them languish, unseen, upon my computer. Did you enjoy them? If so, then it was worth their inclusion. If you didn’t…well yaboo sucks: this is my story, and I’ll use whatever bloody pictures I want!

 

Cyber-Soylent Green

I’m sure, when the I.T staff member responsible for placing these obsolete monitors out for collection by a recycling company did so…

…he or she didn’t notice the scene’s similarity to the 1970’s film, Soylent Green. In an over-populated world, the elderly were required to willfully submit themselves to euthanasia, eventually to be repurposed as biscuits or varying hues for the hungry masses. It was called Soylent, and the remains of Edward G Robinson’s character was designated Soylent Green, which didn’t please Charlton Heston one little bit! If you have a silly imagination like me, this is a rather sad photo. Look at them: they’re not complaining or trying to escape. They just wait there to be collected before being torn asunder and reduced to their constituent parts. Or is just me?

P.S This was taken a few years ago. Since then the entire building has been repurposed. Nothing in the picture has survived. It is now part of a housing estate. And that really is sad because it never needed to happen. Just a very bad decision made at board level caused it. It still rankles with me: I loved the place.

Climatic Calamity (part 15)

In Part 14 we saw Celestino Candalabra abducted by robots and brought to the Drunkard’s Vomit – and he wasn’t best pleased. Shall we see what happened next? The answer to that is yes, sno’nuf Tooty, go for it!

However, by the time he had been reintroduced to his fellow earplugs, then, for the first time to the ship’s Captain, he had simmered down somewhat…

“So a map won’t cut it, huh?” He said to the news that he would be going on the mission to save the museum.

“You might ‘see’ alternatives, should we encounter problems.” The Captain explained. “This mission cannot fail. Everyone depends upon us and what we do.”

Celestino was a little doubtful. “What – even the Earplug Brothers?”

“Even the Earplug Brothers.” Hellfire assured him.

Celestino thought about that. “Hmmm,” he said at length, “it would be quite a feather in my cap if I put one over the Earplug Brothers. I go shopping three days a year: I suppose I could do my future shopping in the museum’s arcade. It would be quite something to have other shoppers point and say ‘Oh there goes that hero of the museum: I wonder if he will sign his autograph on my knickers and grant me a kiss’. That might be fun. Okay, let’s do it. Let’s get it on!”

Well the Captain didn’t require a second bidding. It instructed Security to open the hangar roof hatch; then launched the Drunkard’s Vomit into the air with all possible haste…

In a matter of seconds, the huge bulbous craft had cleared, not only the museum, Ciudad de Droxford; Lemon Stone; and the pea-farming district; but had left the mountains behind and had cleared off across the vast plain beyond…

Then it was straight up. Soon the bridge crew could regard the majesty of the firmament upon their main viewer…

“I don’t know,” the Captain seemed to ruminate upon its theological position within the cosmos, “but it never seems to look the same twice out there. Or is it me?”

“It’s you, Sir.” The Second Officer replied. “You spend too much time in the company of earplugs, Sir.”

Soon the Earth-Moon system had fallen far astern of the Drunkard’s Vomit

At the same time, the Fifth Officer had re-assumed its catering duties…

Although cyber-disappointed, it had expected the unwelcome role-reversal – so it didn’t feel overly moribund. Moreover, it could now enter a genuine terrestrial adventure upon its cyber-CV. Who could guess in which direction its career might go with that in pink high-lighted ink? But it was genuinely surprised, and very pleased, when it discovered that its fellow officers had banded together to create a lovely stone plinth in its honour…

“I don’t know what to say.” The Catering Assistant said when it nearly fell over the gift in a side gangway. “Is it heavy? It looks heavy. Where am I going to keep it?”

Chapter 6

It wasn’t very long after the Catering Assistant’s wondrous discovery when the Drunkard’s Vomit entered a hyperspace conduit…

However it took a bit longer for the exit into sub-atomically unstable space to appear upon the main viewer…

“Jolly good.” The Captain said after such a long wait. “Take us out of hyperspace. Nice and smooth: we don’t want our passengers throwing up all over the place.”

Almost instantaneously the ship entered that strange region of the cosmos that looked even weirder than Weird Space…

…Where nothing conformed to the perceived expectations of galactic normalcy.   

“Can’t say I’m enamoured with this place.” The Captain continued. “Especially since it was here that we picked up our belligerent stowaway.”

“Boggles the eyes a bit too.” The Second Officer observed.

The robotic leader might have replied in the affirmative, but the image of space upon the viewer was replaced by an image of a grand city standing upon a hill, set against the darkness of night, and perhaps a distant Galaxy beyond…

“It’s a transmission, Sir.” The First Officer reported. “Sent by an unknown agency. There are co-ordinates attached to the transmission. I assume we’re supposed to follow them and go there.”

“I was never one to refuse an invitation, Number One.” The Captain replied. “Take us there with utmost alacrity.”

Shortly after the command was given, the Drunkard’s Vomit raced into an orbital course around a vast planetoid…

“That city on the screen, Sir,” the First Officer said in cyber-wonderment. “It can only be a totally sealed environment. This planetoid possesses no atmosphere whatsoever. Not even a miserable little one made up of inert gasses and the occasional interstellar fart.”

The Captain was about to express its own sense of wonderment, when the city-scene was replaced by that of a dark figure with small glowing eyes…

“Welcome,” it said, “I am Corbin Commijerk. I invite you to enter our fabulous Vacuum City. Just follow the guide beam we are transmitting.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I think Celestino’s expression tells you all you need to know about that welcome. If you’d like to know what he said to this, return for episode 16!

All You Need For An Earplug Adventure…

…are…

…a computer, a camera, a note pad, a pen (obviously – what good is a note pad without a pen?), and (in my case) some glasses and a cup of cafe cortado. Oh yeah, and…

…sets, props, and lights. Not forgetting…

…locations and a photographer. And last, but certainly not least…

…a whole bunch of earplugs!

P.S Did you recognise the location I was shooting in that charming photo of my tanned self with a bamboo plant? It was…

…the scene from Surprise Visit in which the three Cafe Puke Baristas go in search of raw cane sugar for Nigel the Golden One of Scroton. If you spotted that, present yourself an Earpluggers Merit Award for Paying Close Attention. It looks something liked this…

Nature Wallpaper: Weeks Into the Drought

The fields near where I live suffered during the Summer of 2022. They also made a pleasant, if slightly abnormal wallpaper…

Here’s how it might appear on your computer…

And just to show you the lengths I’m willing to go to in order to serve up these wonders of nature – regard what a loop of vicious bramble did to me as I went about my country business, snapping nice pictures to share with all…

My ankle was like that all the way around. I hate bastard brambles!

Climatic Calamity (part 14)

Well part thirteen passed by without incident or mention, so I guess it must have been okay, if less than startlingly good. On with episode 14…

Shortly, the Fifth Officer and Shortarse stepped out of their vessel – to find that the ice-age had further breached the museum’s defences…

“It appears colder than the regulation nine degrees centigrade.” Shortarse observed.

“Don’t be a pedant.” The Fifth Officer replied. “Turn up your internal thermostat. It’s a long walk to where we’re going.”

Once outside the museum, both robots were bludgeoned by the weather from space…

Shortarse felt compelled to make a request:

“Permission to turn up my thermostat again, Sir?”

“Granted,” the former Catering Assistant replied, “I maxed mine out the moment after we stepped from the building.”

Several hours were to pass before the pair of intrepid robots reached the pea-farming region…

“This hillock appears to conform to Hellfire’s description of the area immediately above the shepherd’s hut.” The Fifth Officer said as it surveyed the area with its visual apparatus – often referred to as ‘eyes’.

“I’m fitted with Hut Detection Sensors, Sir,” Shortarse offered. “Shall I activate them?”

Two minutes later the crew members of the only Submarine Space Freighter in the vicinity were making good speed towards their target…

“Is the last one there a rotten egg, Sir?” Shortarse inquired.

“Oh, undoubtedly,” Shortarse’s superior replied. “A rank dinosaur egg.”

Shortly, (had anyone been around to watch) the two robots could be seen peering in the only door that led into the shepherd’s hut…

“Lot of snow in there, Sir.” Shortarse stated the obvious. “Can’t quite make out the entrance to any tunnel. Are we sure this is the right hut?”

“Yes.” The Fifth Officer snapped. “I don’t have an articulating midriff,” it added, “you’ll have to push me through.”

After a lot of mechanical heaving and straining, both robots could stand upright inside the snow-filled hovel…

From there it was a simple matter of finding the tunnel door; forcing aside the accumulated snow that had fallen through the broken sky lantern; negotiating the green and orangey tunnels; then waltzing, unannounced into the home of Celestino Candalabra…

When Celestino learned what the two hulking monsters required, he offered to draw them another map.

“I have some lavatory paper and a felt-tip pen.” He offered.

“No deal.” The Fifth Officer replied. “The captain said to fetch you to the Museum of Future Technology: and that is exactly what I am going to do. If you have any thermal undies, I suggest you put them on.”

It took Celestino a full fifteen minutes to dress – as best he could – for the conditions outside. He spent every one of those minutes trying to conjure up a cunning plan whereby he might escape the clutches of the alien robots. But ultimately it was to no avail…

In a carbon-copy recreation of the journey made by the former burglars, the trio discovered an abandoned armoured personnel carrier…

“Neither of us can fit into the driver’s seat.” The Fifth Officer informed Celestino. “You’ll have to drive.”

“But I can’t drive.” Celestino wailed his argument. “I’m a recluse, remember?”

“I can stand behind you.” Shortarse said to the sole earplug. “I can tell you what to do and when to do it.”

“It’s either that – or walk.” The Fifth Officer said less-than-kindly.

An hour later…

…only one object moved of its own volition beyond the outer walls of the Museum of Future Technology. And shortly after that the disgruntled recluse was introduced to the interior of the Drunkard’s Vomit

“I don’t know,” he said as he regarded the automatons as they went about their work, “maybe earplugs aren’t so bad. At least they don’t drag you from your home against your will; force you to drive an armoured vehicle through an ice-age; and then shove you into a huge spaceship!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so the team appears to have assembled. Now it must be time to go and kick some bad guy’s arse. Return for episode 15 and discover where the aforementioned resides.

P.S Here’s the preliminary cover for the finished product…

Climatic Calamity (part 13)

I’m not superstitious, but if a story isn’t working by episode thirteen,  I figure it never will. I leave you to judge whether this tale is the real deal or grot snot. Read on…

As though on cue, the Tong-Tong look-alike Catering Assistant stepped from the ship’s lower cupola…

“Good afternoon,” it said through its cheap and nasty forward speaker, “the Captain is wondering if we might be of assistance. Would you like to come aboard?”

“Oh please,” Erronious cried with relief, “Our gussets are still full of compacted snow!”

Chapter 5

Once aboard the Drunkard’s Vomit, both earplugs relaxed and began to luxuriate in the miserly nine degrees centigrade that the robots considered most efficient and comfortable for their complex artificial brains when going about their regular duties…

Whilst they travelled along a brightly lit gangway, Hellfire thought he should try to engage the Catering Assistant in conversation:

“Um…have you been a space farer for very long?” He inquired.

Although the robot replied, both Erronious and Hellfire thought they detected a hint of tetchiness in its demeanour:

“Straight out of the factory – into a bridge officer’s role – seventeen months past.”

“Oh, excellent.” Hellfire responded with false cheerfulness. “Well done. That’s really…um…swell. Is it nice? Do you like being a bridge officer?”

“I am a catering assistant!” The robot snapped.

Hellfire was confused. “I’m confused,” he said, “when you said you came straight from the factory as a bridge officer, I…”

“I am a catering assistant.” The robot interrupted rudely. “In the ship’s unused and totally superfluous Cafe Puke!”

Erronious felt instantaneous pity for the machine that had brought them in from the cold. “Café Puke, eh?” He said before Hellfire could put his foot in his mouth. “That’s quite an honour. Biggest chain of cafes in the Museum of Future Technology, they are. A lot of robots would give their third diode to work in ‘em. But they usually only allow silicon life forms to work in such important positions. It’s a bit…ah…racist, I know, but that’s the way it is. Say, after we’ve told the Captain about our plans, maybe you can serve us both a Café Disgusto!”

“Disgusto’s off.” The robot replied – too quickly for Erronious’ comfort.

“How about Defecated?” Hellfire offered.

“That’s off too.” The response came even quicker. “Now shut up: we’re nearly there!” 

And they were too!

“Sir,” the Catering Assistant introduced their guests, “From your right to left, this is Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams. They have important information for you. Now may I return to my duty station – I think I detected a small mould spore growing beneath the washing up sink.”

“You will remain.” The captain answered. To Erronious and Hellfire, it said: “This information: might it impact upon the current situation in which my vessel has been embargoed for having brought a dangerous infestation into the Museum of Future Technology?”

Both earplugs were amazed. “It certainly would.” Erronious replied with a small grin. “This is your lucky day: we’re gonna give you the chance to redeem yourself.”

Thereafter the two earplugs took turns to tell the tale of the ‘See-er’ – Celestino Candalabra – and what he had told them of the alien artefact that had let loose devastation upon the museum and its environs.

“Right.” The Captain said as they completed their tale. “I think I’ll call a couple of important earplugs: I need to run this past some real living beings.”

Fifteen minutes later, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug were listening to the same tale…

“Sounds great.” Magnuss said enthusiastically. “I’d like to come along for the ride, but I don’t like to steal other people’s thunder. In any case I’ve developed  bit of Housemaid’s Knee: I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the mission by being a fraction slow off the mark. But, ultimately it’s not up to either Hair-Trigger or me: you need to convince the Curators.”

So, another fifteen minutes later…

…Cushions Smethwyke, along with Pretty-Boy Plankton, Auntie Doris, Montagu, and Bubbly Salterton had it all explained to them. Naturally they gave the go ahead for the ship to launch upon its mission to find the antidote to the storm in the far away sub-atomically unstable region of space. But when Erronious handed the sodden napkin upon which Celestino had written the co-ordinates, no one could decipher the inky smears upon it.

“Oh-no,” Erronious cried with horror, “the compacted snow in my gusset has thawed and soaked my pocket. It’s unreadable. What are we gonna do?”

It’s electronic brain racing, the Captain of the Drunkard’s Vomit reacted like stoat with a red hot poker up it’s bottom…

“Catering Assistant,” it snapped, “you are familiar with the situation: take another robot of your choice and retrace the tracks of Mister Bosche and Mister McWilliams. Find this Celestino Candalabra and bring him here.”

“What?” the Catering Assistant’s inexpensive speaker grill almost overloaded into incoherence, “Dressed like this?” 

The Captain cyber-sighed. “Oh, very well. I hereby re-designate you as Fifth Officer…”

In a moment the Catering Assistant had transformed…

“I won’t fail you, Sir.” The Fifth Officer replied to his Captain’s questioning body language. “I’ll take along Shortarse.” It added. “It is of a smaller, less advanced robot type: I might need it for getting into apertures too small for my larger, more advanced body.”

“Good choice.” The Captain responded. “I have full cyber-faith in you. Be upon your way now.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, another trek across a snowy landscape. I do like my snowy landscapes you know. Come back for episode 14 to find out just how snowy that landscape is. And a few other things too, of course.

Climatic Calamity (part 12)

In Part 11, our heroes finally arrived at the Museum of Future Technology. Good for them. But now that they’re there, where are they gonna find a space ship? Read on…

Chapter 4

Stepping from the windy exterior into the frosty interior of the Museum of Future Technology’s foyer, both earplugs were surprised at the absence of either a Robot Ticket Collector or a Robot Guide. Hellfire tried whistling for the latter automaton, but without success.

“I don’t like just walking in without a ticket.” He complained. “It feels dishonest.”

But they did anyway and were astonished to find that the minus zero degrees continued into the museum proper…

In his desperate search for living beings such as himself, Hellfire had skipped ahead through the frozen tableau that was the museum. He turned back nervously in time to see Erronious pass through the door from an adjacent corridor.

“Oh, Erronious,” he wailed, “are we the only earplugs left alive? It’s horrible: where is everyone?”

Erronious showed no emotion. He simply grunted: “Keep searching: someone is bound to show up.”

And so this proved to be. Shortly after arriving in one of the main pedestrian arterial routes, both earplugs spotted a green female ahead of them. Hellfire called along the frosty corridor:

“Hello. Oo-oo. Excuse us. Can you tell us where to find the nearest Café Puke? We’re cold and gasping. And I think my friend, Erronious could use their toilet.”

Mavis Dorker was surprised to find others about. “Oh,” she called back. “Sorry, but all the Café Pukes have shut up shop. Their staff were sent home hours ago. Everyone is taking to their homes to keep warm. They’re huddling together like small hibernating omnivores. The only reason I’m out and about is because I’m claustrophobic: I don’t have the sort of friends who would like to huddle with me: and my frozen-over lavatory has proven highly resistant to my rubber mallet. I’m hoping to find a pneumatic drill in one of the maintenance lockers.”

“Yeah, enough of your personal problems.” Erronious growled. “How do we get to the UFO hangar from here?”

As an assistant librarian, Mavis was delighted to be able to help the strange pair of earplugs. “Go through that arch behind you: turn left: go straight on for two kilometres – until you find the emergency stairwell: then go down three levels: pass through a yellow portal that leads to the Tunnel Temporale. You’ll find a small green door in the wall beside the tunnel. That will open directly on to the hangar.”

Hellfire managed a quick, “Ta, er, whatever your name is,” before Erronious dragged him through the aforementioned arch.

A hideous amount of time later, and exhausted by the trek, the two earplugs found themselves passing through the yellow portal mentioned in her instructions by Mavis. Hellfire was pleased to be there, especially when he noted the warmer air in which they now stood.

“Wow, Erronious,” he said, “it’s almost balmy here – in comparison anyway. But I wouldn’t want to take my trousers off; it isn’t that warm.”

A grim Erronious replied:

“Yeah, and I think I know why. And it aint good.”

He didn’t bother to explain until he and Hellfire stood inside the Tunnel Temporale…

“Um,” Hellfire said uncertainly, “is this thing supposed to be glowing? Didn’t they turn it off years ago, coz of all them time storms what nearly tore the museum apart?”

Erronious sighed several times before replying with, “I never thought I’d see the day when someone would reinsert the fuses of the Tunnel Temporale. Obviously desperate times require desperate acts. But I can kind’a see some logic in it. If they run the tunnel at minimum power; target a period in history when it was – or will be – really hot; then just let the heat from that time percolate down the tunnel, it should warm up the museum a little. Risky though: if some engineer felt tempted to up the power just the tiniest bit, those time storms could come sweeping back, and make this ice-age look like a comedy sketch.”

“Ooh,” Hellfire said nervously. “Perhaps we should have stayed with that snotty-yellow earplug: his den was nice and warm.”

Erronious looked at his friend sternly. “No.” he snapped. “We have a task to perform. Where’s this bloody green door?”

Shortly, Erronious and Hellfire found themselves standing in an empty UFO hangar…

For a moment the grey earplug’s shoulders slumped. “Nada.” He said in a disappointed tone. “We’re too late. Everyone must have flown the coop before the weather made it impossible. That’s it – we’re stuffed. Game over.”

But Hellfire had noticed another pedestrian door. “Wait a minute.” He said. “Aren’t they always getting extra-terrestrial delegations from far away worlds like Scroton and the Ice Planet? Where do they park their space ships?”

Twenty seconds later, and inside an adjacent hangar…

…Erronious’ dejection reached new depths. “Not here, obviously; it’s too jam-packed with so many flying saucers.” He said sarcastically.

Again Hellfire’s wandering gaze had spotted something to give him hope. “Look,” he said, “that sign says Hangar Two: maybe there’s a Hangar Three!”

Another twenty seconds later they discovered that there was indeed a third hangar…

…but it didn’t do anything to improve Erronious’ demeanour. Instead of acting dejectedly or petulantly, he decided to study the ornate emergency lighting in the ceiling above. “Hmmm, recessed.” He noted. “Not terribly efficient. Nice in a bathroom though.”

Hellfire wasn’t listening: he was too busy dragging Erronious through yet another door. Moreover, having passed through that door, both of their mouths fell open at a wondrous sight…

Erronious was momentarily stupefied. He could form no words. Hellfire did better:

“Wow, look at the bloody size of that! So big and bulbous!”

“It’s…it’s…” Erronious managed.

Hellfire spoke the words for him:

“It’s a Submarine Space Freighter!”

Erronious re-gathered his wits. “Look,” his words echoed off the hangar walls, “the dorsal navigation light is lit. This is a working vessel! Hey, I’m not hallucinating, am I? It is real, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, sure is” Hellfire cheered. “It must be that one we saw this morning in the Café Puke automat. And there was me moaning about it. How could I moan about a submarine space freighter? It’s lovely! Let’s get a closer look: after all this, I’d hate to think we’re sharing a hallucination and it’s just a mirage.”

But, of course, it was no mirage…

“What does it feel like to touch?” Erronious asked.

“Hard and kind’a rubbery.” Hellfire answered cheerfully. Then he had a slightly negative thought: “Ooh-ur,” he said, “what if it’s in for repairs? Let’s check out the back end – sometimes known as the stern in naval parlance. Make sure it’s got engines.”

So they did, and, to their untrained eyes, it all looked tickety-boo…

“Looks like a bit of space rust up there,” Erronious noted, “but otherwise no obvious damage. How do we get inside? We don’t have a robot: who’s gonna fly this thing?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Locked out and minus a pilot’s license. Could this be the end of Erronious’ and Hellfire’s great expectation? Return for episode 13: you might find out!

 

Tooty’s Tapas Cakes

Tooty the Chef has endured the presence of a Spanish ‘Bizcocho’ cake mix in his cupboard for several years. His late wife bought it in a branch of Mercadona  yonks ago, but failed to use it because her propane oven was guaranteed to burn the bottom of the resulting cake. Although, by the time he decided to throw caution to the wind and risk a horrible burning smell permeating the structure of his modern cottage, buried deep within (or actually at the very edge of) the South Downs National Park,  the mix was two years out-of-date, he bravely ‘went for it’. As expected the base was burnt and the cake failed to rise. No result. The second attempt, though, was a work of genius – naturally. Tooty mixed up the goo, added eggs and all that other stuff, then (instead of pouring it into a baking tin) he pulled eight tapas bowls from the kitchen cupboard and baked it in them…

They even popped out of the tapas bowls in one piece – and not even slightly burnt!

“Not too bad,” I hear you gasp in wonderment. But he wasn’t finished there. He then proceeded to coat the bases of four cakes with Membrillo…

He quickly followed with a heavy smearing of caramel fondant…

Then it was a simple matter of slapping the naked four cakes on top to form a kind of sponge thing…

Okay, they were a bit chewy, but they tasted nice, despite the fact that he didn’t have any sugar in the house – except a half-tub of soft brown sugar that was (at the least) five years out-of-date. So, all in all, when all things are considered, another triumph for Tooty the Chef!

 

Climatic Calamity (part 11)

In episode 11 the journey to the ice-bound Museum of Future Technology continues…

A short while later, the armoured personnel carrier stopped for two more grateful passengers…

“Oh, wonderful,” one of them said at the welcome news, “our combined body heat should keep us all warm and toasty. It’ll be like playing Sardines!”

So, once his passengers were all aboard, Erronious instructed Hellfire to resume their journey…

But the closer to their destination they came, the worse the weather that followed…

“I can’t see a bloody thing out here.” Erronious complained to himself.

“And I can’t feel my bottom anymore.” He added. “Why am I out here anyway? Hellfire can see perfectly well through his windshield. I’m outta here.”

Moments later a cascade of snowflakes accompanied Erronious as he dropped through the hatch into the passenger compartment…

“Sorry to drop in on you folks,” he said, “but I was feeling slightly superfluous up there. It’s about the only thing I was feeling. Does anyone feel up to the task of massaging life back into my nether regions?”

“Hold tight,” Hellfire called through from the driver’s position…

… “we’re on the plain proper now: I’m taking us to top speed.”

With that, the vehicle leapt forward upon its hidden tracks…

A short while later it raced through the deserted streets of La Ciudad de Droxford’s retail area…

However, shortly after having blasted clear of the city outskirts, those in the passenger compartment were treated to a sharp braking manoeuvre…

Hellfire turned to face them…

“The museum.” He yelled. “It’s entirely frozen in. Look!”

So they did, and Hellfire’s observation was proven accurate…

“Find an open gate.” Erronious instructed him. “There’s one by Tower Twelve. They use it to deliver potatoes and other root vegetables. The hinges seized up years ago, and there was nothing in the maintenance budget to free them off. I always thought it was a perfect access point for rogues and vagabonds. It’ll be open for sure.”

Not unexpectedly, Erronious was proved right, and soon the armoured personnel carrier closed upon one of the Age of Stone exhibit’s entrances…

“Age of Stone.” Hellfire called. “Anyone want to get off here? There’s bound to be a heck of a lot of earplugs in there. Even without heating it should be pretty warm. And they’ve got a composting toilet too!”

The passengers couldn’t wait…

“Thanks for the lift.” They said as one. Then one of the flat-headed earplugs added: “I’ve always wanted to use a composting toilet. It must be so odd – not having a flush button to press.”

After their guests had disappeared into the Age of Stone, it became apparent to the dynamic duo that their vehicle was of no further use to them. They decided to take to their feet and find a way into the main structure of the museum…

…where they noticed a battle-hardened naturist taking a naked dip in the Age of Stone’s moat.

“Tough guy.” Erronious said appreciatively. “If he wasn’t so damned crazy, I’d ask him along.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S That is the second time in this story that I have mentioned Naturists in a slightly derogatory manner. I’d just like to point out to any Naturist who might be reading these tales, and feel offended by these vague slurs: I too like an all-over tan and publicly get my kit off at the beach at every opportunity: but only when it’s sunny and hot.

Climatic Calamity (part 10)

Anyone expecting a well thought out tale that reflects the likely problems that the world will need to deal with in the face of increasingly rapid global climate change must be very disappointed in this very silly tale. Well all I can say to that is…shit, this is an Earplug Adventure: when have I ever taken anything seriously. It’s all a giggle. On with episode ten…

Moments later, after a brief farewell, the would-be saviours of the museum were on their way…

“What are we doing, Erronious?” Hellfire whispered. “Have you taken leave of your senses? Have your pants slipped up the crack between your buttocks?”

“No.” Erronious hissed back through the side of his mouth. “Celestino has a greater gift than he imagines: that snotty-yellow earplug has allowed me to see what I really am. We’re gonna do this, Hell. No more pea farming for us: we’re gonna become bone afide heroes.”

A short while later, having successfully negotiated the red and green tunnels, Erronious and Hellfire found themselves, once more inside the tunnel directly behind the shepherd’s hut…

“There,” Erronious grumbled, “I told you those sky lanterns were rubbish. The top has obviously snapped off under the weight of snow, and now the weather is inside with us. We can’t get to the hut; we’ll have to go out via the broken lantern.”

As a result of this departure, the two chums, now slightly disorientated, stood somewhere above the hut…

“So which direction do we go?” Hellfire asked.

“We need transportation.” Erronious answered. “All the pea farmers would have moved to lower altitude: we’ll find their vehicles down there.”

Fifteen minutes later, and beneath a huge overhang of compacted snow, they discovered a tracked vehicle…

“The keys are in the ignition, Erronious.” Hellfire said from the driving seat. “And the power pack is half full.”

“No good.” Erronious replied. “We’re exposed to the weather on this. Let’s try further down.”

So they did; and they found a small tractor unit outside the pea processing plant: but it presented the same problem…

And it only had one seat. So they tried again…

“Ah, this is better,” Hellfire said with a frozen smile, “An armoured personnel carrier. I’ll drive: you take the command position.”

Once aboard, Erronious wasn’t entirely certain he liked the command position: protection from the wind was minimal. But since he couldn’t drive, he could hardly argue against Hellfire’s logic…

Very quickly they were upon their way…

In his youth, Hellfire had once been conscripted into a rag-tag mercenary army. Driving the armoured personnel carrier came as second nature to him. Through chattering teeth Erronious heard him call from the driver’s seat:

“Do you want me to fire the stubby forward cannon, Erronious? The heat from the barrel might warm you up a bit.”

“No!” Erronious shouted urgently. He then explained his reason: “We can’t see what we’re shooting at in this blizzard. In any case, we’ve started going downhill again.”

The decline to the plain that would take them to the Museum of Future Technology was long and arduous…

Further, once they had attained level ground, they discovered earplugs who had decided to attempt a walk to the assumed safety of either La Ciudad de Droxford, or the museum…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Erronious boomed in the near silence of perpetual snowfall, “are you complete twonks?”

Twonks, or not, the three earplugs were hugely relieved when Hellfire said:

“Get on board. It’s a bit cramped; but it beats standing around out here.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, they’re on their way. What a huge task before them. They’re hardly the Earplug Brothers: do you think they have it in them to save the museum? Return for episode 11 to find out.

Climatic Calamity (part 9)

Honestly, this really is the episode in which our two “Heroes” finally get their arses into gear. Read on…

Whilst the former burglars tried to get their head around the emerald-hued situation, the snow storm that lashed Ciudad de Droxford showed no indication that it would lessen any time soon…

In an apartment on one of the more sheltered housing blocks, Café Puke Baristas, Jungle-Jake Johnson and Mary-Sue Wassack peered out of an open window…

“Well?” Jungle-Jake demanded, “Do you think we can make it to work? Or do you figure we’d better call in sick?”

Mary-Sue shivered as she hopped down from the window sill. “If we try to reach the Museum in this storm, we’re gonna die. The Café Puke will have to go on without us. Let’s open a bottle of vino, maybe watch TV, and chew on that length of chorizo in the back of your fridge.” 

However, and despite the young Barista’s concerns for the well-being of their place of employment, the day-shift Baristas – those being Bert Wimbledon and Rosie Hodliner…

…had already made the decision to shut up shop. As they made for the door, Bert said:

“Race ya to the nearest Down ramp. We can slide all the way to the bottom like complete idiots and fall over in a tangle of arms and legs.”

Rosie was all for the idea. She really liked Bert, and the thought of getting tangled up with him made her forget the raging storm completely. “Yeah.” She replied enthusiastically. “Just let me lock up first.”

Meanwhile, deep beneath the shepherd’s hut, the cavern reduced in size once more – becoming a tunnel again…

“Are we still going down?” Hellfire inquired.

“I’d say so.” Erronious replied. “It’s definitely getting warmer.”

“Strange, don’t you think,” Hellfire said, following several seconds of thought, “that a shepherd should keep a secret subterranean tunnel beneath his hut?”

“More significantly,” Erronious added, “where was his shepherding paraphernalia? I saw no crook leaning against the rustic pantry table. There was no bed for a herding plugmutt to sleep in. And where did he hang his rough sack-like shepherd’s jerkin?”

“What are you suggesting, Erronious?” Hellfire queried nervously.

“That the shepherd was no shepherd at all.” The red-eyed earplug replied. “That he was, in fact, something else entirely!”

Hellfire might have asked, “What ‘something else entirely’, Erronious?”, but he didn’t get the chance: with the reduction in altitude, the light that illuminated the tunnel was changing to a warmer, reddish hue…

“Speak in whispers.” Erronious…um…whispered. ”There’s a brighter light up ahead.”

And there was too…

“I think we may have reached the end of the line.” He added.

Chapter 3

Bravely stepping into the light, Erronious and Hellfire were amazed to discover a modern facility, with mysterious devices set against white-washed walls; a door that presumably led to living quarters and a lavatory; a heated towel rail; and a strangely shaped snotty-coloured earplug, sitting in a high-tech chair that appeared to be regarding a glowing rock…

Shortly after Erronious and Hellfire had slipped silently into the room, the grey earplug deliberately cleared his throat. The snotty earplug was out of his chair like an Olympic flea…

“Take whatever you want,” he squeaked. “Please take care: I frighten easily: I only own two pairs of underpants, and one of them is in the wash.”

“Really?” Erronious responded as his eyes took in the room’s details. “So why are they not hanging upon the heated towel rail?”

“They’re soaking in the sink – with some bicarbonate of soda. There’s a nasty oily stain on them from when I serviced my bicycle last week.”

This intrigued Hellfire. “You only change your underpants once a week?”

“I live alone.” The snotty earplug explained. “There’s no one to complain – which is the way I like it. I’m a recluse, after all. And my olfactory organ has malfunctioned since I was very young, when I was a stunt scooterist and rode head-first into a rock face during an extreme sporting event at a local nunnery.”

As the snotty earplug spoke the words, Erronious could see the self-confidence return to the stranger. “Too bad.” He said. “Oh, yeah, please excuse the intrusion, but we were facing oblivion in the face of the recalcitrant weather up top. We found your hut – and the door that led to the secret tunnel.”

“It’s not a secret tunnel.” The snotty earplug complained. “It’s just that nobody knows about it. If anyone had asked, I would gladly have shown them. But I’m a recluse: nobody comes calling on a recluse such as me.”

Hellfire chose to introduce himself and his pea farming partner.

The snotty earplug responded positively. “Celestino Candalabra.” He said whilst extending a hand of welcome.

“So what are you doing down here, beneath the mountainside?” Erronious inquired.

“I am a ‘See-er’” Celestino replied instantly. “Wherever I look, I see the truth. For example, I see that you are reformed criminals. You were once burglars: but now you till the meagre mountain soil.”

Celestino could see surprise upon the faces of his unexpected guests. “It is a blessing – or a curse – that I was born with. You see, I’m psychic. However, I do not see the future: it’s not that bloody useful – otherwise I could bet on the plugmutt races or the national lottery and make a fortune. But I do see the truth. I see the truth in every face I look at. Sometimes those truths are hard to accept – so I have locked myself away from society, and spared myself the pain.”

Erronious, although impressed with Celestino’s candour, allowed his former cunning to assert itself. Already he could see that he might use the see-er’s talent – though not to his personal advantage: but for an entirely altruistic reason. “Something disastrous happened at the Museum of Future Technology this morning.” He told him. “We appear to be in the grip of a sudden ice age. If we accompany you to the surface, so you can see it for yourself, could you tell us the truth regarding its origin? You see, we’ve already figured that the Earplug Brothers would have been incapacitated – what with them being so close to the epicentre of the disaster – and we’d rather like to have a go at fixing the situation. It’s what any reasonable citizen of earplugdom would do.”

Celestino looked at Erronious and Hellfire. In Hellfire’s expression he saw only surprise. Clearly the ugly sod had not been expecting his friend to speak the words he’d just spoken. In Erronious he saw that his words were the honest truth. “No need,” he said, “I’ve got this crystal ball, in the corner. It’s got three hundred and sixty degree vision – as well as straight up.”

Moments later, Erronious and Hellfire stood in amazement as a view of the Museum of Future Technology appeared in the air before them.

“This is the truth you seek.” Celestino said sternly. “This morning, shortly after daybreak, this happened…

A glowing object, of extra-terrestrial origin detached itself from a Submarine Space Freighter. It proceeded thence to the museum itself, where it gained energy and…how shall I describe it? It exploded into activity. An activity for which it had been specifically designed.”

“What was the activity for which it was specifically designed?” Hellfire inquired with surprising eloquence.  

Celestino turned a sober look upon the former burglars. “To cause mayhem, suffering, and disorganisation – by means of sudden and catastrophic climate change.” He said gravely.

“To what end?” Erronious asked.

Celestino’s eyes seemed to glaze over – as though he had gone into a sudden trance. A split second later he reanimated. “To weaken earplug resistance to their own conquest.” He answered. He then added: “All this terrible weather in the mountains and beyond is all collateral damage. The Museum of Future Technology is the intended target.”

Celestino then quickly scribbled a map upon a paper napkin that (in the absence of a handkerchief) he usually used to wipe his nose. Handing it to Erronious, he said: “Take this; find a space ship; go to these co-ordinates; find the antidote. It’s the museum’s only hope.”

Although Hellfire felt uncertain about this unexpected turn of events, Erronious smiled broadly. He had no conscious awareness of his envy of the Earplug Brothers; but he was certain – deep down inside – that it was the primary reason for his current thought processes.

Celestino saw this to be the truth, but he said nothing, except. “Right, now, go!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, the inevitable mission begins. Return for episode 10, and maybe learn some more.

 

 

Gallic Style Wallpapers

Interior automotive design of the early 1960s…

Almost art deco, don’t you think?

But then look at the exterior design…

Could that be anything but French in origin? I don’t think so. Check out the wraparound windshield. It’s a Simca Aronde by the way. Would I like one? Silly question. Now which testicle am I willing to sacrifice?

Climatic Calamity (part 8)

Could this be the episode in which the earplugs manage to turn the tide? Let’s find out, shall we? Read on…

Meanwhile, many kilometres distant, Erronious and Hellfire had finally found an abandoned shepherd’s hut, inside which they quickly took shelter…

“Do you have any of those oaty biscuit bars in your back pocket?” Hellfire inquired. “All this trudging about the mountain side has made me really hungry.”

“I do.” Erronious replied as he stood, warming ever so slightly now that he was out of the wind. “But you can’t have them. You know what you’re like after a meal: you’ll only want to visit the toilet.”

“What’s wrong with visiting the toilet?” Hellfire asked in a complaining tone.

The reply came instantaneously: “This hut doesn’t have one.”

But what it did have was a hexagonal tunnel that led into the hillside. Naturally the twosome investigated…

“Oh look, Erronious,” Hellfire cried out, “this tunnel has one of those roof-mounted sky lanterns that allow the daylight to be reflected down a polished shaft where it illuminates part of a building that would otherwise be cloaked in shadow.”

“Yeah, very nice.” Erronious grumbled as his gaze shifted in the direction of the sky lantern’s opening. “But what happens when a winter storm breaks it off? I’ll tell you: the weather will get in and render this place uninhabitable. I think they’re absolute rubbish: I hate ‘em with a passion. Now let’s see where this tunnel leads us – before it’s too late, and we get entombed in ice and snow.”

Meanwhile, at the Museum of Future Technology, the sky was becoming darker. Someone sent a flare up to see just how dark…

Someone in the Age of Stone exhibit had another idea. In an attempt to shield the side of the ‘castle’ that faced away from the prevailing winds, he, or she, had a team erect a huge glass barrier that had been hanging around the store for years, but had no obvious use. Now it did…

It gave limited, but sufficient protection for the more religious earplugs amongst the crowd to make their way out of the back door, where they could quickly trudge across a playing field to pray for salvation at the giant concrete toadstool icon…

Barry Dirtbox and his End Cap scullery maid, Fanny Hardcore were the first to arrive.

“Dear Giant Concrete Toadstool,” Barry said solemnly, “I’m really fed up with this snow. And Fanny, here, has got chilblains. Please make it go away.”

“And make me more attractive.” Fanny added. “If you’ve got the time, of course.”

“Yes.” Barry nodded vigorously. “But the snow gets priority, right?”

Elsewhere, inside the breached carapace of the Museum of Future Technology…

…the weather had transformed the Wide Blue Yonder into an ice sheet to rival any at the planet’s poles.

Whilst former female weightlifters, Mandy and Candy enjoyed their unplanned skating session immensely; Poncho Warmonger wore his usual miserable expression and wished he’d stayed at home with a good book and a hot water bottle.

As much fun as it was for some earplugs, other – more responsible earplugs – took upon themselves to mount tracked or hover vehicles and search for anyone in need of help…

They assumed, as almost everyone did, that the Nul-Space power generator had more than enough capacity to heat and light the museum through a protracted winter or mini ice-age. In essence they were correct. But what they hadn’t taken into account was the frozen canal that supplied the generator with coolant. Already engineers had been forced to reduce the amount of power asked of the wondrous device. Even as the hover chariots roamed the open areas of the museum in search of hapless earplugs who were too stupid to find shelter, engineers were dampening the energy transfer nodes all across the vast structure…

“Oh flip,” one engineer cried as the transfer node went to turquoise alert, “that means we’ll have to cut the power even more!”

This quickly became apparent to everyone with access to a window when the museum’s navigation and landing lights were extinguished…

…and the lights dimmed in the Café Puke outlets…

Not that either the Baristas or their clientele gave a hoot: they’d been adding extra brandy to every mug of café cortado for the last hour and a half and were well their way to inebriation and sliding beneath the melamine-topped café tables in a drunken haze.

Meanwhile, inside the mountainside, the tunnel down which Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams explored opened onto a subterranean cavern that glowed with an aerie, pea-like green light…

“Now this I didn’t expect.” Erronious said as they both stopped to take in the view. “I wonder how this got here. Some of the marks in the walls show the characteristic jagged edges of a pick axe or similar rock-hewing implement.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, maybe that discovery didn’t quite live up to expectations; but it’s what they find there that will turn the aforementioned tide. You just wait and see – in episode 9!

Climatic Calamity (part 7)

There’s no let up for those unfortunate earplugs yet. Could this be the time when they finally get their arses well and truly kicked? To find out, read on…

The cold that had permeated into Mister Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant was also playing havoc with the lake in the arboretum. In fact it had frozen it solid and made it all lumpy. Naturally the zombie population were thrilled. And because they had no circulatory system to keep them warm, some of them began a pleasant stroll across it…

Less happy with their ‘stroll’ were Erronious and Hellfire. Although experienced in the mountains, the unseasonal snow had thrown them off the track home…

“Erronious,” Hellfire almost whimpered, “not a lot worries me: but I really don’t want some bunch of adventurers, in the future, discovering my frozen corpse in a snow drift.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, Hell.” Erronious replied with difficulty. “I’m not much into ignominious ends. I don’t want to die with my snow shoes on either. Come on, pal: use your innate talent for path finding. Find us our charming farmstead. Failing that, try and come up with a deserted shepherd’s hut. Anything – just get us out of this damned snow!”

Meanwhile, inside the museum, the weather had managed to find several weak points in the vast building’s aging armour. This resulted in a poor showing of customers for a local pop singer’s al fresco concert…

With his hot dog concession failing miserably, Mister Pong was relieved when Police Constable Salisbury Wilts managed to return safely from his Precipitous Ledge Walking lessons, and (quoting health and safety rules) duly closed the poorly attended concert down.

Others, though, were putting the inclement conditions to good use. They were racing sledges upon the frozen canal that supplied the cooling water for the museum’s Nul-Space power generator…

Naturally Rupert Piles and his huge 3D TV camera were on hand to record the event. But as conditions worsened, the lone-wolf reporter realised that there was a bigger story than some dopey sods risking their necks rushing up and down the canal: this outlandish weather could be a catastrophe in the making. So he got his saucer-pilot girlfriend out of bed; slapped a PRESS sticker on the side of her saucer, and had her fly around the museum, whilst he took pictures and gave a running commentary…

“Maybe this will be the time I finally get a journalistic award.” He said through a smile that he shared with his girlfriend – a sweet End Cap, by the name of Wendy Ledballoon, whose faith in Rupert was total and undying.

However, worsening conditions soon overwhelmed the flight capability of the small sight-seeing machine…

…and Wendy was forced to park it once again. But not before Rupert snatched some long distance shots of neighbouring Ciudad de Droxford, which appeared almost abandoned…

What his camera didn’t spot was the hundreds of desperate earplugs, who even now, at this late hour, were still swarming to the ‘castle’ in the Age of Stone…

K’Plank and Auntie Doris were performing their civil duties by standing beside one of the side entrances and shouting loudly:

“This way: this way. Sanctuary beckons. Come along now: come along now. Stop arsing about and get inside. What are you doing – slipping and sliding around like a total moron? Don’t fall over, you dozy bleeder. Get inside before I give you clip behind the ear – stupid!”

Upon the tower roof immediately above the curator and her beau, Mister Pong’s eldest daughters – Yu-Wah and Wah-Hey – counted the number of earplugs entering the ‘castle’, and were hurriedly calculating the amount of arroz de grano corto they would require to make a huge paella with which they might feed the growing horde.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Return for the next episode when Erronious and Hellfire make a remarkable discovery. A discovery so remarkable that they’ll still be remarking about it a century from now!

Climatic Calamity (part 6)

I promised worse was to come for our little silicon heroes: well here it is…

Others, who had already made it inside the thick stone walls couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling of superiority that safety afforded them…

“Gosh,” some would say, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this level of smugness. We are so clever to be inside, out of the cold, whilst the dull-witted hammer upon doors and demand entry. I no longer need to keep up with the Joneses: I’m already leagues ahead!”

Who could argue with that summation? The weather outside the Museum was worsening by the minute…

Meanwhile, in the mountain pea-farming region, Erronious and Hellfire held an impromptu meeting with several other pea farmers, who looked to the reformed criminals for leadership…

“Right now, I’d suggest you all get to your homes and put on some thermal socks, woolly underpants, and a bobble hat.” Erronious told them.

Hellfire followed this up with:

“We’ll worry about our insurance policies later. Forget the bloody peas: right now it’s all about survival!”

Hellfire was absolutely right when he spoke of survival. Several Precipitous Ledge Walkers were of the naturist kind. They had no thermal socks, woolly underpants, or bobble hats. All they had were frozen assets…

In fact many earplugs were becoming increasingly at-risk…

So, in an act of altruism that would have astonished their earlier selves, Erronious and Hellfire spent the next half-hour finding lost souls and sending them to their friend’s houses or the nearest drunk tank…

“I think, Hellfire,” Erronious said through frozen lips and chattering teeth, “this might be a good time to find shelter for ourselves.”

As the snow continued to billow around the mighty flanks of the museum…

…something of the cold permeated into the interior…

“What’s this, Mister Pong,” Chester Earplug inquired of the restaurant owner, “you’re closing the museum’s only exotic food restaurant?”

“Can’t keep egg foo yung warm.” Mister Pong replied. “Pongs never serve cold egg foo yung.”

And, as the day darkened…

…even Rudi, Valentine, Miles, and Magnuss Earplug looked on and wondered what the heck was happening…

“Heck, man, what’s happening’? This sho’nuf aint funky.” Valentine complained.

“I can dig it, Bro,” Rudi answered for the others. “We’re action guys: we fix things. Aint no fixing this.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

If you don’t like the sight of earplugs suffering horribly from chilblains and runny noses, don’t return for episode 7. But if you don’t care two hoots what happens to them, come back tomorrow for the next exciting extract from Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity!

Climatic Calamity (part 5)

Well, in episode 4 the climatic calamity began. Now see how it worsens. Not a good time to be an earplug!

Talking of married couples: former Father Superior, Frank Tonsils joined his young wife – former nun, munitions worker, and owner of the defunct Time Shard Museum of Future Technology – Buttox Tonsils (nee Barkingwell), and her best friends – the former monks, Zak Bravado and Bolah Googly – as they stepped out of their farmhouse to survey the frozen ground…

“This is gonna cut into our profit margins.” They heard Frank mutter to himself. “And how am I gonna pull my wheelbarrow back up the mountain from the marshaling yards on the plain below?” He added. “The rope will be all slippery!”

Elsewhere earplugs of every hue, shape, and size were being inconvenienced by the apparent onset of sudden winter…

With insufficient armoured personnel carriers available, many were forced to walk to lower climes, where they prayed the chill air would be warmer. But if they had only known that the situation was no better at lower altitude…

…they might have saved themselves the effort, and, instead, dug themselves snow caves. In fact earplugs were flooding from all over towards the perceived sanctuary that Lemon Stone offered…

The four monks that manned the watchtower at the head of the gorge could only watch impotently as swarms of earplugs passed by…

“Flipping heck,” one of them bellowed, “all that revenue that we’re missing out on. Are you sure that door is frozen solid? We could be asking ten Pluggentos per pass to enter the citadel. Within hours we could be rich beyond the dreams of avarice!”

“Shut up,” one of his colleagues grumbled, “and put another log on the stove.”

Because of its close proximity to the museum, Ciudad de Droxford was almost invisible in the whiteout. The palms trees that grew all around the city had withered and were frozen solid in multiple layers of ream ice…

The streets, themselves, were liberally coated in a sheet of ice. Only the brave or foolhardy ventured on to them…

The situation was no better at the museum itself…

…though the fascists and mariachi bands continued to struggle through their twin conventions in the Age of Stone…

Meanwhile, the caretaker of the Age of Stone – Susan the amorphous blob from the future – looked up at the sky. Snow was unheard of in her era: she was fascinated. Those hammering upon the ‘castle’ door were less entranced: they just wanted to get inside…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Like I said: not a good time to be an earplug. And it gets worse!

Climatic Calamity (part 4)

You’ve waited patiently for long enough. Here it comes: the genesis of the climatic calamity in the title…

And it was too. In moments it had escaped the lab entirely, and had expanded into the corridor outside…

But even the futuristic walls of the corridor could not contain it. Seconds more and it had freed itself from the entire tower in which the lab was housed…

A ripple of fear ran through the populace of the museum. This, it appeared, seemed to feed the anomaly further. Its size grew at an incredible rate. Within a half-minute, this occurred…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” one visitor was heard to wail, “it’s engulfing the whole building. Quickly, someone tell me; where is the nearest toilet? One that has yet to become engulfed!”

Had anyone been able to answer his question, a further thirty seconds would have proven them to be liars: there were no toilets that were yet to be engulfed. The entire museum fell beneath its dazzling light. But that wasn’t all: soon the inhabitants and buildings of Ciudad de Droxford became illuminated by its alien glow…

And, as it fled across the plain that led towards the mountains, one of the regular Submarine Space Freighters almost fell victim to the expanding ball of light…

Moreover, across the mountains, in the pea-growing region, farmers became aware of a strange light in the sky. A light that appeared to be coming closer…

“Okay,” one disgruntled pea farmer complained, “what have those dozy sods at the Museum of Future Technology been up to now?”

To which his colleague responded:

“I don’t know, Fruity, darling, but I’m frightened: find me a hole and throw me down it.”

Chapter 2

During the few scant moments it took for Fruity to find a hole, the fleeing Submarine Space Freighter’s crew became aware of changing climatic conditions upon the mountain side above which their vessel flew…

They weren’t alone. Horst and Greta Stenchlinger had hired a rock face near Lemon Stone, and were busy teaching Advanced Precipitous Ledge Walking to a few wealthy and brave customers…

The sudden appearance of falling snow alarmed many of them.

“Honestly,” Candice Pustulina complained as she stood beside the helmeted Police Constable Salisbury Wilts and peered over the edge of their precipitous ledge, “as if regular ledges weren’t slippery enough, now the Stenchlingers include snow. I’ve a good mind to ask for my money back!” 

Because it was mid-summer in the mountains, the inhabitants of Lemon Stone were astonished to see freezing air billowing up the mountain side towards the village and citadel…

At the same time, the robot crew of the Submarine Space Freighter watched in cyber-horror as pea farmers fled their rapidly freezing farmland…

In their tiny mountain shack, married recluses, Steve and Dotty Chunder watched in dismay through their recently installed, double-glazed picture window as their rose garden succumbed to the weight of the sudden snowfall…

“Ooh, dear, Steve,” Dotty whimpered, “I so wish I’d listened to you, and, instead of this silly picture window, had an indoor lavatory installed.”

“You and me both.” Steve replied. “Now I’m glad I never threw out that old potty your mother gave us as a wedding present: we’re gonna need it!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

If you’re a long-term Earplugger, you’ll probably have noticed my propensity for creating snowscapes and wintry scenes. I have this thing about winter. In my opinion The Bourne Identity would have only been half as good if they’d set it during Summer. It does cause me vast grief with the photo processing department though. As you can probably imagine, I don’t get out in the snow to do much shooting: I live in southern England after all. White bed sheets and polystyrene are absolute necessities.

Climatic Calamity (part 3)

At last you witness the origin of the climatic calamity of the title. Introducing the scene (and lots of silly asides) is all well and good, but I’d hate to keep readers waiting too long for something to happen…

Whilst the two former inmates of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary returned to their physical toil, way, way, over the mountains, the early morning smog of Ciudad de Droxford was climbing upwards from the streets, where (everyone hoped) the breeze would blow it away…

By the time that the Drunkard’s Vomit roared overhead, indeed, this was the case…

Moreover, the day looked set for sunshine and blue skies. It seemed that everyone would have the opportunity to be happy.

The same could be said for the adjacent Museum of Future Technology. Already earplugs were finding their way to the various Cafe Puke outlets scattered across the vast emporium…

“Don’t try the ‘defecated’.” One departing customer said to another that had just arrived. “It’s not a misspelling of ‘decaffeinated’.”

At the same time, but in the Age of Stone exhibit, which was a recreation of a period in future history when all technology was (or will be) based upon a single material – that being stone…

…two groups were each holding their annual conventions. One was the National League of Mariachi Bands: the other The Fascist Black Helmet Brigade.

The fascists held the high ground – or the walls; whilst the guitar strumming (and horn blowing) mariachi-ists remained in the main courtyard. Unfortunately a number of ‘Black Hatters’ had ‘invaded’ the courtyard, and it looked as though they might have the durability of their helmets tested by a smack around the back of the head with a six-stringed acoustic guitar. But if either faction had known what was about to happen above the space freighter landing zone, all enmity would have evaporated, and they would have pulled together and united like only earplugs can.

Just as the Drunkard’s Vomit made its final approach to a landing tower, the strange spacial anomaly that had attached itself to the vessel, chose that moment to detach itself…

In another section of the single largest exhibit – that being the Age of Stone – one of the frolicking, sun-loving, music-appreciating visitors spotted it tumbling across the sky above them. His response was to surprise everyone by running across the plaza whilst screaming:

“Doom! Doom! Look to the sky: we’re all toast!

For a moment it appeared that good fortune smiled upon the Museum of Future Technology, and no one would need to make an insurance claim against injury or soiled underwear. The shining object fell upon an area of wasteland that represented the Age of Stone just after time was called upon it and anarchy reigned…

“Ooh, pretty.” One particularly stupid yellow earplug was heard to utter.

By chance, two of the museum’s maintenance crew were taking the air during a tea break. Whilst Wolfgang raced forward to urge people away from the potentially hazardous object, Rikki ran for help.

A short while later two scientists arrived and took it away to their laboratory for tests. But to their collective surprise, and before they could begin to scrutinize it, the anomaly suddenly encased the more junior scientist…

Luckily for the young earplug, his more experienced senior suggested that he expel intestinal gas through his rectum at high speed, thereby ejecting himself from the object’s embrace, much like an aircraft’s ejector seat. This was entirely successful, but an unexpected by-product of introducing a terrestrial fart into an extra-terrestrial anomaly, was a sudden heightening of mysterious tensions. The object flew into the air above and increased its apparent surface area by two hundred percent. It then chased the scientists from their lab…

“Run! Run!” The senior scientist screamed like a schoolgirl: it’s getting bigger with every passing nanosecond!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed some shots in the extract that may have seen the light of day before – as Earplug Adventure Wallpapers. Can you identify them?

Climatic Calamity (part 2)

As you may have noticed in Part 1, climatic calamities appear rather thin on the ground. That is because I don’t write stories that could be adapted for TV movies on the SyFy channel. I’m more (I like to believe) Spielbergian. Let the tension (what there is of it) build. So if no climatic calamities appear in part 2, do not be disheartened. But when they do…pow!

Despite the catering assistant’s woes, the ship was soon clear of the region and had entered a hyperspace conduit…

A day and a half later its blunt prow turned to face Earth’s Sun…

Immediately members of the crew that had hitherto remained dormant, all rushed to take their places for the interplanetary stage of the flight…

“Out of the way, Tong-Tong look-alike.” One of them grated at the catering assistant through its nasty cheap speaker. “We have important stuff to do.”

Astrogation then had the ship turn through a precise number of degrees; lined it up with a blue planet some ninety-three million miles distant; and told the helms-robot to hit the ‘Go’ button…

At that precise moment, far away on that blue planet, two staff members of the Wide Blue Yonder branch of the Café Puke arrived for the early shift…

“I’m in the mood for a little excitement. I wonder what today will bring.” One Barista said to the other.

“A severance cheque,” the Branch Manager growled from the shadows, “that’s if you don’t get your uniforms on pretty damned quick, and have that coffee grinder warmed up in the next two minutes!”

The second Barista ignored his boss. “Just another day at the office.” He replied. “Nothing ever happens at the Café Puke.”

A short while later, the Drunkard’s Vomit approached Earth. It passed worryingly close to Magnuss Earplug as he tested a new combined space jet pack and helmet for the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company…

“Hmmm,” he thought to himself, “better take a note: maybe this thing should have a radio beacon on it. I wouldn’t want to bump into something solid at twenty thousand miles an hour.”

But by the time Magnuss had thought through the problem of a location for his theoretical radio beacon, the Drunkard’s Vomit had begun its long, low, and very slow approach path towards the Museum of Future Technology. In fact it now meandered across the pea-growing area in the foothills of the mountains…

“Ah, the green hills of Earth,” The Captain said semi-poetically. “Does anyone remember the last time we were here?”

It was a stupid question: everyone aboard was a robot: they forgot nothing: they recalled everything.

“Yes,” one of them ventured. “But, I don’t know: those hills look somewhat greener this time around.”

Everyone agreed. Then the reason became clear…

“Peas, peas, and more peas.” The Captain observed. “Bumper harvest, I would wager. But the trouble with crops is…you never know what’s around the metaphorical corner. One particularly blustery day, some rampaging soccer fans, or a vicious pestilence, and it could all be destroyed. I prefer to be plugged into the mains.”

Inside the automated Café Puke, Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were in the process of departing, having consumed the last two cups of coffee in the place, when they heard the Drunkard’s Vomit pass by the shack’s solitary window…  

“Ooh, it’s one of them Submarine Space Ships.” Hellfire said above the noise of the whooshing atmospheric drive units. “They make me nervous. If one were to empty it’s latrines whilst in flight, it could decimate whole hectares of semi-arable land and ruin a whole bunch of farmer’s income.”

Erronious was less concerned. “It’s a robot freighter: it can’t harm us in any way. Robots don’t poop.”

“They sometimes carry passengers.” Hellfire argued. “They poop all the time.”

“That’s still not a problem.” Erronious explained. “There’s a rule. All passengers must carry their poop off with them…in a bag. So, assuage your fears, my long-term chum: robot freighters must be considered beneficent and friends to all earplug kind. Now let’s get back to work.”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, as suspected, no calamities there, either. But just you wait…

 

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Self Destruct!

Submarine Space Freighters are usually very reliable vessels: but sometimes their crews must take desperate measures to win the day.

I’m not saying that this shot will appear in an Earplug Adventure: but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Q: Did this single picture take hours to produce?

A: Too bloody right it did. Thank goodness I’m retired, and have the time to waste. Or is it waste? Is art ever wasteful?

Climatic Calamity (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

I’ve been rather busy of late – producing shots for yet another Earplug Adventure, this time called Climatic Calamity. Many of the pictures for the early part of the story have been challenging. When you see them you’ll probably understand why. It’s certainly not like the early stories. Flipping heck they were basic – and  are still available to read by clicking right HERE. But before you let your curiosity take control, please read this first instalment…er…first…

Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were hardly the stuff that heroes are made of. Certainly, the day that the governor of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary awarded them early release from a long prison term for habitual burgling…

… no one imagined that they would ever find themselves regular work and a propensity for honesty. Indeed, following that release, several years previous, they had gone straight to the nearest town and fell in with the local crime organisation…

Actually they did more than simply join it: they took control of it – until the concerted efforts of the law system forced them to abandon the city and move to the Museum of Future Technology. It was whilst inside that vast and wondrous emporium of technological artefacts from the future that they encountered the famous Earplug Brothers, and assisted the return from dimensional limbo, of the museum’s greatest hero, Magnuss Earplug…

Flushed with the resulting endorphins of a good deed well done, they settled into a more honest way of life. Eventually they became winners of a lottery that awarded them a ride upon the star ship K T Woo. It was during a difficult period aboard ship, when a vastly superior alien craft threatened to destroy the vessel, that the former thieves discovered a penchant for entertaining others. In a desperate effort to persuade the aliens that earplugs were simply too good to destroy, a desperate show was staged. Amongst the many acts that hoped to save the ship and everyone aboard, Erronius and Hellfire delighted the audience by repeatedly picking Captain Sinclair Brooche’s pockets in a most humorous way…

Grateful to have survived, and upon their return to Earth, the ex-burglars moved away from the Museum of Future Technology, to buy a parcel of land in the shadow of the mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone and become mountain pea farmers…

…where they enjoyed their own company, the fresh air, tilling the meagre soil, digging drainage trenches for the toilet, and frequenting the automated Café Puke outlet…

This is the story of how two recidivist burglars reacted to a terrible climatic disaster from outer space.

Chapter 1

For many years the Museum of Future Technology had managed perfectly well without the trade benefits of interstellar commerce, but since the discovery of the haulage (and cheap) capacity of Robotic Submarine Space Freighters, the cybernetic wonders had been plying the new trade routes to Earth on a regular basis…

…in their dozens. One ship, in particular, was well known by the inhabitants of the museum. It had been the vessel aboard which three teenaged girls – Bunty Bridgewater, Ginger Slack, and Daisy Woodnut…

…had been abducted (along with the entire crew of robots) by a bunch of conniving Incense Cones. Following their victory over the aforementioned bunch of conniving Incense Cones, the girls had returned the ship to its captain and crew. They had also named it…

The Drunkard’s Vomit had recently launched from a submarine ocean beneath the frozen surface of a gas giant’s moon in the Finklestein region of the Galaxy. It’s hold contained many differing items of all shapes and sizes, from multifarious worlds and strange civilisations: but only one of them was of any interest to anyone inside the Museum of Future Technology. It was a consignment of Gas Giant Moon Fish from the very moon from which the Drunkard’s Vomit had only recently lifted. Mister Pong was very keen to try them on the menu of the second branch of his Exotic Food Restaurant, located in the neighbouring city of Ciudad De Droxford, which had recently been rebuilt following the event best known as The Attack of the Crutons

Aboard the bulbous black vessel, a subordinate robot was reporting to its captain…

“Sir,” the huge green robot said in a boring monotone through a cheap plastic speaker grill, “Astrogation reports that if we wish to maintain our schedule, the Drunkard’s Vomit will need to enter a previously unexplored star system. Sensors report that the region appears sub-atomically unstable. We won’t know what to expect there. They say it might get very bumpy, or something entirely different. Something, so different, that it might be beyond our cybernetic powers of understanding. Thought you ought to know, Sir.”

After months and billions of kilometres of interstellar travel since the day that its ship was returned to it, the captain still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the vessel’s nomenclature. “Can the…urr…Drunkard’s Vomit take a battering?” It inquired. “It has been due for a refit ever since that nasty incident with the Incense Cones.”

“Unknown, Sir.” The subordinate bridge officer replied. “You’ll have to suck it and see.”

Schedules were very important to logical mechanical life-forms. The Captain made a snap decision. “Keep to the schedule.” It said affirmatively. “Proceed through this…um…wonky space.”

Two minutes later, the boundaries of the uncharted region of space had been breached for the first time…

“Nice colourisation.” A member of Astrogation opined. “Not that I’m an expert or anything. Nevertheless I feel vulnerable: the sooner we traverse this region, the happier I will be.”

The unnamed member of Astrogation had good reason for concern. Approximately half way through the traverse, an undetected anomaly approached the ship. Unseen it closed upon an open wim-wom valve cover and secreted itself into the shadows there…

The robot that had been given the task of replacing the robot named Tong-Tong as catering assistant in the totally unused Café Puke canteen had been standing at a porthole when the anomaly approached and docked with the Drunkard’s Vomit. Unfortunately it had seen nothing. It was too busy regarding its appearance, reflected in the porthole glass…

“I look just like Tong-Tong.” It complained. “Why couldn’t I have kept my old green look? I was one of the guys like that. And this stupid hat: it hides my glowing brain. If I was an irrational creature of flesh and bone, I would throw the bloody thing out of the window. Or maybe shove it down the only lavatory!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Many years ago, my late wife badgered me to write a story with a title she had invented. It was Attack of the Crutons. Well, in Surprise Visit I finally got to write it – but I couldn’t use her title because it would have signposted where the story was going. There would be no mystery. But, if you look at the picture that features Mr Pong in his Ciudad de Droxford restaurant (in this extract) you’ll notice the title ‘The Attack of Crutons’ mentioned. Somewhat  belatedly I can finally say; mission accomplished.

Tooty the Chef Turns Up Trumps!

Tooty the Chef fancies himself as a tad internationalist. He particularly enjoys knocking up meals that might (possibly) have originated in the kitchen of a Spanish gastronomic emporium. In keeping with his enthusiasm for most things Iberian, he purchased himself some reasonably priced Andalucian cheese…

“Perfecto!” He said as he judged the weight of the two wedges in his dainty hand. But he was considerably less enamoured with the situation when, having opened the fridge door in search of some membrillo to accompany the cheese, he found it conspicuous by it’s absence…

But upon visiting his local Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and (begrudgingly) Sainsbury, he further discovered that none of them now sell the quince-based paste he so desired.

“Arse!” he bellowed like a rutting stag; and so set to work searching the Internet…

Initially he thought he had met with success; but the prices – and the high postage costs – made him pause to consider giving up and making do with strawberry jam. Fortunately he persisted, and eventually chanced upon a pack that appeared better value than those seen previously. Including postage, the membrillo cost £15. He pressed the ‘buy’ button. Twenty-four hours-or-so later…

…a surprisingly large package arrived at his door. And when he opened it, he discovered that he had bought genuine Spanish membrillo in a light-weight wooden box with a sliding lid – a la expensive vino…

Moreover, having eased the block of goo from the box, he was delighted to discover that he had purchased a 1.5Kg catering pack…

…that would likely last him until the wheel of time ground to a halt. £15 well spent, methinks. So, with a glut of his favourite nibbles to hand, he spent the evening gorging himself on an exaultation of yum…

So, if you happen to be passing by the ‘original’ Cafe Puke, drop in for a bite; there’ll be plenty to go around.