All posts by Tooty Nolan

Writer of silly tales, taker of pictures, and all round good egg

Gastronomic Desperation, with Tooty the Chef

When it’s the end of the week; your supplies have dwindled alarmingly (probably because you hate shopping); and you are a reluctant cook, chances are life has become almost intolerable. Or at least rather annoying. If you could afford to eat out, you would; but it’s that time of the month again, and the coffers are somewhat less than bulging. Step in, Tooty the Chef…

…He can make something fabulous out of almost bugger-all. Just follow his lead and you won’t go far wrong. For example, on this particular occaision he found all he had available to cook were a few slices of frozen pork. Not choice cuts at all, but with lots of fat that he needed to cut off and chuck in the bin. So what could he do to make them palatable? Well veggies were required, obviously. In this case he rustled up these…

Already, in these early stages of culinery desperation, an idea was forming in his aging brain that would result in a meal that, should he pull off his daring plan, could thrill the masses; excite world leaders; and have most chefs dashing their ladles to the kitchen floor in abject defeat. So he dug out the remnants of two different colour types of rice and held them aloft in expectation of triumph…

Success was certain, he was…er…certain – especially when he withdrew the famous Chinese Rice Cooker from the cupboard – along with the aluminium seive-like thing that sits above the rice – that is assuming anyone would desire to cook more than rice alone – like veggies, for example – and want to do it cheaply and efficiently by utilising just the one cooker…

See, Tooty the Chef even has green credentials. But, anyway a few minutes later progress had been made…

Now the wonderful thing about rice cookers is…they need no attention, and they turn themselves off! Wonderful for morons and genii alike – and everyone in between, of course. Then it was a simple matter of chopping the pork into tiny squares and frying them gently in olive oil. Oh yeah, I forgot, he also sprinkled a bunch of mixed Italian herbs in with the veggies before switching on the rice cooker. A small, but vital ingredient.

So, slightly later than Tooty had anticipated, the cooker went “Ding”, and he was able to mix the rice and veggies together in an amalgam of wondrousness…

Slapping portions on to individual plates, he placed the cooked pork artistically upon top of the pile…

There, does that look nice – or what! Exuberant colours too. Then, in a moment of gastronomic brilliance, he remembered a pot of apple sauce in the fridge that was on the brink of going out-of-date. The result?

It dosen’t come much scrummier. And you can do exactly the same. It’s not difficult, even if you hate cooking. But you will need a rice cooker. First rule of Tootiness: Never be without a rice cooker!

Escape to the Country(side): The War in Ukraine

Recently I thought I’d slipped into a sort of alternative reality. You see my local magazine – the one produced by inhabitants of my home village, for consumption by whomever wants to peer inside it’s shiny pages – slipped into my ‘in’ tray (the one attached to the door to stop the dogs from attacking whatever pops through the letterbox, that is). When I unfurled it, I was confronted by this image…

“You what?” I was heard to whine. And, upon opening the magazine at random, my confusion increased…

Then, having looked through the remainder of the pages, it dawned upon me: the Ukrainian flags that flutter throughout the village weren’t there merely to show support for that war-torn land: they’ve been hung there to make the families that have been invited to share our village feel at home. It made me feel good to see that women and children of Ukraine walk among us. Sadly their menfolk could not join them though: they are too busy fighting the Russians.

So, until the aforementioned enemy of the free world start flinging their nukes in our direction, welcome to our rural haven.

A ‘It Features in My Book’ Wallpaper: Fictional Village of Brambledown

When I posted the first ‘It Features in My Book’ Wallpaper, I hadn’t planned to produce a sequel – of sorts; but nosing through my collection of digital photos, I found more that feature locations (from my recollections during childhood) that inspired scenes in this book…

Here is a shot that includes a part of the fictional village of Brambledown…

…which I thought made a nice wallpaper. But whilst I was bending myself to the task, I fiddled with a shot that features a location that is included in a specific scene from the book, which I present here as an extract. The locale has changed considerably since the sixties (the period from which I drew my imagery); but the general lie of the land remains pretty much as it was. The sunken lane highlighted here, featured in the first post.

An extract from Silent Apocalypse…

Since I was not present, the following part of this narrative must be second hand. It was related to me at a later date.

Night had fallen. Four teenaged girls, one of whom was Katherine Kingsbury – sister to Tom, and school friend of mine – huddled together in a thicket that grew upon the hillside that overlooked the village. They’d been abducted during the Wiltshire Rifles’ first foray into Brambledown. They rejoiced in the fact that they’d not been joined by others, but were greatly concerned about the villager’s welfare. As of yet they were unhurt and unsullied. None of them imagined the situation would remain that way forever. Katherine, bound at hand and foot, stared at the one young Rifleman left to guard them. What she hoped to accomplish she didn’t know, but if it made him feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable, then it was worth the effort. And she was pretty certain she was having some effect. Eventually he turned angrily toward her.

“Will you stop that?” He snapped.

“Will you set me free?” She returned his outburst.

He took a step toward her. “I’ll tell you what I will do…”

“Rifleman!” The voice of the Lance Corporal erupted from the surrounding shadows, “Remain at your post.”

The Rifleman threw Katherine a glance of menace, and resumed his watching of the village through the thicket. He spoke to the Lance Corporal, who had come to check the girl’s condition:

“Any chance of action tonight, Corp?”

The Lance Corporal glanced at the girl’s bonds before returning his attention to the Rifleman. “For you – or the unit in general?”

“Both.”

“No – and yes – in that order.”

The Rifleman’s whining voice betrayed his youth: “Oh, but Corp, I missed out last night too.”

The Lance Corporal was unmoved. “Tough. Shouldn’t be such a prat then, should you? Tell you what: next time we need a complete louse-up, we’ll call for you. Now shut up and keep your eyes peeled.”

“Thanks very much.” The Rifleman managed. “So we’re going in again tonight?”

The Lance Corporal was already departing. “If my plan’s gonna succeed, we have to. We have to keep ‘going in’ until there’s either no womenfolk left in the village, or we’re all dead. Whichever way it turns out, we are not leaving here empty handed. You got that?”

Katherine heard these words, and shuddered.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

As far as I know, this e-book remains available at several outlets, some of which are included on the sidebar via the book cover images, or on the Tooty’s E-Books Available To Buy Here page. And very nice it is too – if you enjoy genocide and disaster.

Don’t Miss Out!

Just in case you didn’t know, but this fabulous e-book…

…is available in PDF form, absolutely free and gratis. Just click the image and the tale will present itself to you, to either read now, or download for when you’re in the mood for a gentle chuckle. You can even show it to your nearest and dearest! It’s quite short too – so you won’t get bored stupid.

A Village Trapped in Amber?

I always have a camera close to hand; you never know when you’re going to need one. A case in point is this one…

It’s a screen shot from a TV show that was filmed thirty years ago in the village that, for the last ten years, I have called home. I can still recall crowding around the TV set when it was first aired on the ITV network in 1993, to see how the production company had ‘tarted up’ the conurbation in which my mother lived, and into which I was born…

The tale, itself, wasn’t one of Ms Rendell’s best, particularly because it was stretched out to a three-parter, when two episodes would have sufficed. Having snapped several screen shots, I had the fabulous idea of recreating them – to see how the old place has changed during the intervening decades in which I went from being a young dad, to a grey-haired pensioner. So I grabbed my little Canon compact and went hunting locations. The first was inaccessible – being a thicket of vicious thorns and stinging nettles; but I managed to get very close. Close enough to take this…

Not a lot of change, I think you’ll agree.

Here’s an establishing shot during the titles…

To replicate this I would have needed to access someone’s property, so I just stood outside their gate and took this…

Well someone forgot to take their dustbins in: and I don’t think anyone has milk delivered to their doorstep anymore. Here’s a closer Panaflex shot of the shop at the bottom of the hill…

The TV production company changed the name of the shop. Here it is today, with the original name…

No one bothers with window baskets; not in real life. The production company must have thought it would look nicer with them. Here the central character is seen outside of a Limo-hire establishment…

Inside, the building was decked out very like it had been during my childhood: a car sales garage. The apparent antiques shop was actually a private home, and still is. The modern picture shows the ‘garage’ looking very much as it had for eternity…

…but it is, in fact, now a private dwelling, but some stupid by-law forbids the owners to change the outward appearence: so it still looks like a car showroom, but with blacked-out windows, so passers-by can’t see the occupants watching TV. Dumb. Oh yeah, and someone else forgot to take their dustbin from the street. We’re a forgetful bunch – us carrot-crunchers.

Here we see the back of the central character as she turns into the high street. Note the time on the  church clock. Everyone is out at work: those are production company ‘props’ parked in the road. Also note the red Ford Sierra: it will, as of by magic, swap position. Today’s picture…

…includes an ugly warning sign that suggests that very stupid lorry drivers should refrain from taking their huge vehicles up the tiny, narrow road. Presumably one of the aforementioned once tried it, and wrecked several cars whilst trying to reverse back down the hill. God I hate that sign: it’s a blot on the landscape!

Oh look, it’s that red Sierra again. I had one, myself, in the same shade of red. Very bouncy back end, I recall. Blew a head gasket – just a few weeks before I was due to sell it and move to Spain. The florist closest camera was never such, and until recently was an insurance broker. It’s now empty, and will probably become a private residence: they all do eventually. Opposite is the George Hotel. It was actually one of three public houses in the village (now down to one). Today it is an partment building, but retains it’s original ‘look’…

Here is a scene from inside the building…

…which, for me is rather poignant. It is the place (in 1981)  where I met the woman who would become my wife of thirty-eight years, and the mother of my children. So, in summation, apart from in-fill between existing buildings and the street in which I now live – which was constructed in 2011…

…not a lot has really changed. But that’s the English countryside for you. Glacial. And I would be the last to complain.

 

Making Art Out of Doo-Dahs and Thingamabobs: Spaceship Window

When it comes to source material for my Earplug Adventures, there are no depths too deep for me to sink to in pursuit of  it. Actually that isn’t entirely accurate: it’s very unlikely that I would lower myself into a sewer or go wading in a slurry pit. But I would root through a garbage can; especially if I were to unearth a nugget such as this…

“What?” I hear you bellow, “How can the torn cardboard sleeve of a sweetener dispenser be termed ‘a nugget’? You’re pulling my dangly bits, Nolan!”

In response I say this: “You haven’t seen my other Making Art Out of etc etc, have you? If you had, you’d know that a carboard dispenser sleeve with a diagonal slash across its ‘window’, is just begging to become transformed into a real window. The window of a parked spacecraft, perhaps…

My, I do believe that’s Don Quibonki, the fantasist conquistador, riding Gargantua outside upon a dusty plain, with his aide, Panta Lonez, peering in at Nigel – the Golden One. Very nice. Quite spectacular actually. But this particular ‘window’ was just too good to use only once. Look what might happen to the aforementioned spacecraft, should my imagination (and some directed energy weapons) be let loose upon it…

Pretty much only the window remains. Oh dear. And this is what might happen in the next Earplug Adventure. Shucks, we can only hope that Nigel wasn’t home.

Earplug Adventures and pictures 2 & 3 © Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

The Epoch of Dung (part 24) An Earplug Adventure

THIS IS IT: THE FINAL EPISODE. IT’S A MUST-READ!

Of course, there had only ever been one Hair-Trigger. She had no need to seek out her twin. Instead, she fetched herself a ghastly cup of Café Puke’s finest…

…and wondered what might have happened if she and the boys hadn’t been off world when the temporal catastrophe struck. The vague feeling of dread didn’t last long though: the sound of the first space submarine freighter arriving from far away broke the tableau…

Epilogue

Inevitably, late evening gave way to full night, and before long twelve midnight struck. Hambledon Bohannon took the sound of a chiming bell as his cue. ‘Everybody Slip Your Disco Disk’ boomed out across the Grand Hall abruptly – shattering the growing murmur of congregating earplugs…

Within seconds of Hambledon’s driving rhythm making its presence felt, people began to move with the beat…

Of course, the song was so out-of-date that no one remembered how to Slip Their Disco Disk – so no one got hurt. As the song segued into another classic dance floor boogie…

…any remnants of conversation were despatched. This suited Nature Beast: his conversation was monosyllabic at best.

Rupert Piles did make the mistake of trying to interview Princess Agatha about her discovery of the functioning Tunnel Temporale…

…but when she gave up the unequal battle and instead joined in with the well-known chorus of ‘Gut Churning Music’, so too did Rupert, and contented himself with recording the party for posterity. This was fortunate because he was able to capture the image of Susan, the amorphous green blob from the Age of Stone exhibit (and Chester’s principal love-interest) making her entry into the hall…

She didn’t disappoint.

“Hey, will you look at that.” One of Los Natillas said to the other two, “wouldn’t our show look so much better if we hired her to dance to our Latin rhythm?”

They agreed, but doubted the financial aspect of the deal. “That’s one big stomach.” One of them observed.

“And how would we fit her on the tour bus?” said the other.

Soon Susan was performing what was rapidly becoming her signature dance…

That is – wriggling like an idiot in front of everybody whilst carrying all five Earplug Brothers upon her huge form.

“Ooh, Rudi,” Magnuss moaned, “please ask her to stop: I’m feeling motion sick already.”

“Hey, man,” Rudi joked in reply, “some great hero you make: throwing up on the dance floor!”

And so it continued – deep into the early hours of the next day. Then word got out that the Greenhorn Girls had decided that, instead of standing like wallflowers against the mighty flanks of the Grand Hall, they had agreed to give a kicking line exhibition…

The consensus was, “This I gotta see.”  So, without too much further ado everyone backed off and allowed Margret and her girls to step away from the wall…

From somewhere – no one asked where – Hambledon Bohannon produced a show number track. The rhythm was perfect – as was the lighting – and soon the girls were high kicking across the floor…

Then it was back to disco, and everybody was ‘getting down’…

…except the Angel with a Huge Nose, who was ‘getting up’ by unfurling her wings and flying above the dance floor. This, in turn exposed a facet of the museum’s Avatar that no one was aware of…

She had wings too! So, whilst the Museum of Future Technology bathed itself in the glow of disco lights, and Magnuss and Hair-Trigger donned their jet packs so that they could join Angel and Avatar as they flapped about clumsily above the towers…

…Margret Greenhorn slipped away from the Grand Hall – in search of someone who had long-since disappeared from the celebration. She found her in her beloved arboretum…

“You know, Margret,” Cushions said, as she allowed her gaze to wander across the vast expanse of the museum, “I’d give everything for this place. Without it I am nothing.”

“I know, Cushions.” Margret replied. “And I love you for it. We all do.”

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, wasn’t that charming in every way! Better still, you can now read the whole thing on PDF – either on-line, or to download and read at your convenience. Just visit All Earplug Adventures in PDF Format Unexpurgated & Free!

P.S  I know that tale was a bit brief. Certainly shorter than normal. However, the up-side of this is… with this one out of the way, I can now plan the next Earplug Adventure.  Everyone say “Yeah!”

P.P.S Why not click on the e-book cover (below) and become instantly transported to the full PDF version of The Epoch of Dung!

J.B. Chisholm Has Returned!

Following a near three-year hiatus, my favourite on-line author, J.B Chisholm is once more composing fabulous P.G Wodehouse-like tales upon the Internet on the Vasa and Ypres site. The third book in the series is titled The Little Matter of Montreal, and follows directly on from this book…

Visit immediately!

The Epoch of Dung (part 23) An Earplug Adventure

Alone, standing atop her Omnipresent Scanner, Cushions gave silent thanks to the Gods for returning the Earplug Brothers and her other self, safe and intact…

Now, she realised, she would need to show great leadership. She would have to be the first person to reintegrate her two temporal selves. Worse still, she would have to perform the act in public. “Gotta set an example, Cushions.” She whispered to herself. “Otherwise we could have two of everyone wandering about the place, taking up space; getting into arguments about whose turn it is to wash their underwear; and eating me out of house and home.”

Obviously, her twin had drawn the same conclusion. Therefore, before anyone could even try to settle back into the museum, her two selves appeared on TV together…

Crowds began to form around the public television screens…

Throughout the Museum, tension grew as the two Cushions’ moved closer to one another. No one dared breathe whilst the two bodies appeared to coalesce…

However, no sooner had the brief flash of temporal energy subsided, and Cushions, alone, stood before them, then everybody gasped in desperately needed air and cheered with relief…

“Hey,” she shouted above the din, “that wasn’t so bad. Piece of cake. If I could, I would do it again. Now it’s your turn.”

Initially people were sceptical. The pink background against which Cushions had merged made some earplugs wonder if it might be the result of special effects. So, donning their metaphorical ‘hero’ hats again, the Greenhorn Girls stood before the camera of one of the Rupert Piles: took up their dancing positions…

…and high-kicked their way back into their single selves…

…which might have been a mistake, because, during their duality, they had each lived very different lives – with two sets of memories. One in which they had survived a tsunami and lived in the brief Epoch of Dung: the other where they played the role of heroes. This left them all very confused – and it showed in their faces and gait…

Also, for a while afterwards, they appeared to suffer residual after effects…

Nevertheless, an example had been made. Quickly others followed their lead…

Mandy and Candy (times two) chose the Main Thoroughfare to re-join…

The disused roller skate park proved popular with the two Ninja Perkins’, Auntie Doris’s, and K’Planks…

Rupert Piles even filmed himself becoming one again. “Pity,” one of them said to the other, “as a duo we could have covered twice as many stories.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Epoch of Dung (part 22) An Earplug Adventure

However, despite their near miss, fear continued to grip the hearts of the escaping earplugs. There was no guarantee that the time rift would not evaporate – with them still inside it…

It was in this most tense of moments that seven of the Tankerville Norris’ passengers chose to reveal their presence…

“Excuse us,” Margret Greenhorn said, following a discrete cough, “is it alright if we come to see who’s driving this bus?”

Well, of course, it was perfectly alright. In fact, the crew were delighted that such heroic dancers should deign to join them upon the bridge. This was especially true of Miles, who took an instant interest in Belle.

“Hello,” Miles whispered, “my name’s Miles.”

“Oh, hello: I’m Belle, by the way. I thought you might be Chester, but I’m glad you’re not: he’s spoken for. Oh, sorry, am I being a little forward?”

“You be as forward as you like.” Miles said through a smile that was broadening with every passing nanosecond. “I think Belle is a lovely name. Not sure about the Ching, but never mind.”

The conversation would have continued along these lines for as long as both protagonists drew breath, but Magnuss announced that they were free of the time rift, and invited them to watch it’s closure on the main screen.

“Okay, take up your duty stations – it doesn’t matter which one you choose – the ship flies itself – we’re headed for Earth. The real one, that is.”

Chapter 7

It was night in the environs of the Museum of Future Technology…

Its inhabitants waited in their domiciles with bated breath. Very few were active in the vast building’s many corridors. Bilious Botner was an exception…

He had the idea that, because business was quiet, the Café Puke might sell him some croissants at half-price. Both he and a strange female with tall red hair were disappointed when the proprietor told them to, “Sod-off – I’m watching the TV news: the fleet’s due back: I don’t wanna miss this.”

Of course, in any society, one is always going to find dozy bleeders who don’t follow the news or give a toss about real-world problems. In the case of four science-fiction mad youngsters, they were far more interested in the final act of this week’s episode of Destination: The Stars…

Hambledon Bohannon, on the other hand, was planning for later. He had every confidence that the heroes of Earplugdom would return triumphant. He was also certain that they would like nothing more than to ‘get down’ to the disco beat. So already, he was warming up the turntables…

“Yeah,” he mumbled to himself as he ran an eye over his vast repertoire of Disco Hits, Ancient and Modern, “best start with one of my own grooves, I guess. Sho’nuf gotta be ‘Everybody Slip Your Disco Disk’. The popular dance routine that accompanies the record is a bit painful for oldsters and people with an underlying skeletal problem, but I figure it’s worth the risk. What’s more, Nurse Consuela is a practising chiropractor, so that’ll be just fine and dandy if someone collapses on the disco floor in agony, sho’nuf if it aint.”

The heroes for whom Hambledon planned his disco celebration were still far from home. At the controls of the Gravity Whelk, Placebo Bison had noticed a certain degree of sluggishness when adjusting course…

“Hey, Folie,” he said to the co-owner of the old, but wonderful vessel, “Get aft, will you? Check out the ship’s mass balance.”

Folie duly obliged. Initially all seemed well, but when he reached the moving corridor section, the sight of unrestrained passengers greeted his gaze…

“Oh curse these automatic moving corridors,” he wailed, “they really are of doubtful use. They’ve brought everybody together in one place. The ship is unbalanced: anything could happen. And who hung that stupid sign up in my bulkhead access tunnel?”

The situation was little better aboard the Chi-Z-Sox. Several passengers, including Mister Pong, had grown weary of their dreary cabin walls and ventured into parts of the ship from which they’d been barred – including the bridge…

The K T Woo crew were suffering similar hardship…

“Honestly,” the Engineering Crew Manager, a former End Cap Hyperspace Pirate who had been taken prisoner during the failed invasion of the museum several years previous, complained when his engine room was ‘invaded’ by rubberneckers, “I can barely hear myself think. What if the Captain calls and instructs me to make a sudden swerve to avoid an asteroid? I’ll tell you, shall I? I won’t make that swerve, and you’ll all die of vacuum inhalation when the hull breaches.”

The four pink former monks of Lemon Stone didn’t believe a word the End Cap said. Crew-plug, Gusi Ghandar stood at the back and smiled faintly. He knew it was nonsense too. “You can’t breathe vacuum,” he said quietly. “Vacuum is the absence of anything. Or am I being pedantic?”

There were no such problems aboard the much smaller Tankerville Norris

Everyone had chosen a role to play, so boredom never reared its ugly head.

“Ah-ha,” Magnuss called out to gain everyone’s attention, “looks like the good old Solar System’s dead ahead and coming up quickly.”

Inside the Museum of Future Technology, gigantic screens displayed the fleet, as it approached the planet…

“Hoorah,” Auntie Doris cried out to K’Plank the Space Wanderer, “the boys are nearly home. I can’t wait to give that Magnuss a big hug.”

If there had been a race to see who could land first, Folie and Placebo would have been the winners. As the Tankerville Norris made its final approach, Hair-Trigger noted the other ship settling upon a landing tower…

“Don’t care.” Magnuss responded. “I don’t like that tower anyway: the elevator doesn’t work properly. It goes up and down too quickly, and makes me feel sick.”

Meanwhile, down in the depths below the museum, the Earplug Brother’s cousins, Clancy, Brad, and Gilbatross, finally received the news that the world wasn’t ending. They cheered uproariously as they emerged into the light…

Well Clancy did: Brad was a bit annoyed that he’d let the family down by running and hiding when everyone else did what they could in the circumstances.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Tooty the Chef’s Rubbery Custard Surprise

It’s not often that Tooty the Chef turns his amazing gastronomic talents to the subject of sweets; but when he does, it’s going to be worth the effort. Well in theory anyway. The Rubbery Custard Surprise started well enough. Our resident  silly hat wearer rolled out some puff pastry into thin layers…

He then estimated the surface area required to fill the mould at varying depths; cut the requisite  four differing sizes out of the pastry; then baked them…

For some reason he had expected them to expand in every direction. They didn’t. As they grew upwards, they shrank sideways. But he cared not one jot – just as long as one of them fitted in the bottom of the mould – which it did, of course…

Then it was time to tackle the tricky part: making the custard thick enough to set, but not too hard that it  required a pick axe to get through. Here he was only partially successful. Going heavy on the custard powder, and light on the milk, the custard was set before it had begun boiling. Nevertheless Tooty the Chef pressed on and dragged it from the pan into the mould…

At this point there was to have been another layer of puff pastry; but for reasons that will become clear, the great nosh-maker went straight to the cooked slices of apple…

…which he coated liberally with cinnamon. The following picture explains the loss of a pastry layer: he needed it to fill out the huge gaps in what would have appeared the third layer. Oops…

Unable (probably because of his age) to learn from his mistakes – or ‘creative hiccups’ as he prefers to call them – he produced  another floppy custard brick…

…finally topping it off with the third (fourth?) layer of pastry…

…which didn’t quite fit.  Hopeful that a hour or two in the cold might make it all sag slightly, and therefore fill the mould correctly, Tooty proceeded to the fridge…

Although appearing confident, the Wok-Master had an inkling that this was not going to be a tour de force in the realm of custard, so whipped up a fabulous stir-fry…

…that would leave his victims so full and satisfied that they wouldn’t notice this…

Oh dear, he forgot that his propane oven burns the bottom of pastry at the drop of a hat. So he pretended that the brown bits were cinnamon. He also provided a knife and fork to eat it with. But at least he didn’t need a hammer and chisel: it could have been worse. Pity it looked so dull and tasted so  bland. Or should that be termed ‘subtle’?

Surprise Package

Regardez vous the montage below…

Notice anything unusual about it? Yeah – a dearth of earplugs. Could this suggest an Earplug Adventure without earplugs? Well, no actually: without earplugs it wouldn’t be an Earplug Adventure. But, as you can see, the planned follow-up to The Epoch of Dung will include Nigel – The Golden One – and several Ethernet Cable End inhabitants of Scroton. The development of this story – even before the final episodes of The Epoch of Dung are posted on-line (which usually coincides with cerebral somnolence from the  author, following a prolonged period of creativity, hurried camera clicking, and manic typing) was kick-started by the appearence of this little artistic ditty…

Tooty asked himself – who are these guys? Does that have to be London in flames? Could the event depicted therein be twisted slightly and turned to good use in an Earplug Adventure?  Could that smoking ruin be Ciudad de Droxford – the closest city to the Museum of Future Technology instead? Might it’s destruction be a warning or threat to Cushions Smethwyke and the other curators of the museum? An idea began to form. How could (long-term ally of the MoFT) Scroton be involved with the situation? What if Nigel – The Golden One – decided to make a surprise visit to the museum…

…and found it entirely empty? Well discover what might happen, should these events conspire to tell a tale, dear Earplugger, by salivating over these hints of the next story – Surprise Visit!

P.S And, oh look, I’ve already begun snapping pictures: we can’t have them go to waste, can we!

 

The Epoch of Dung (part 21) An Earplug Adventure

Indeed she did. Already, those who were yet to be carried to the orbiting ships via matter transmission were boarding landing tenders…

 

Bert Frogget and young female earplug, who had only been visiting the museum on a half-day pass, paused to regard a vast plugmutt poo.

“I won’t miss those.” She said whilst recalling the number of doo-doos she had earned her three meals a day converting into building materials.

Bert said nothing, but he felt confident that, for the following couple of months, he would suffer terrible night terrors about them.

Only when a sensor sweep confirmed that the evacuation of everybody from the ruin of the Museum of Future Technology was complete did Magnuss host a video conference with the other ship captains…

The conversation could only be about one subject: making sure that ‘their’ museum survived the approaching reconnection with the normal time-line.

“Well we have the garbled suggestion from the Time Techs.” Placebo aboard the Gravity Whelk opened. “Have we figured what they’re trying to tell us?”

Sinclair Brooch spoke next: “Well them Greenhorn gals sure are pretty, but they aint tech-savvy. They only brought back half what them Time Techs told ‘em. My guys figure they mean to blow the hell outta this planet: they just can’t figure out how. My proton torpedoes sure aint up to the task.”

“I believe I have the answer,” the brainiest earplug included in the discussion spoke up. “My charming and intelligent wife and I have spent considerable mental energy in deep thought. We believe that the planet’s magnetic iron core is the answer to the problem. Put simply, we must tear it apart. The planet will surely follow.”

Magnuss, ever quick on the uptake, said, “You’re talking Gravitonic Multiplicitor time again, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed, young, heroic earplug.” Hydious Gout replied. “It will almost certainly destroy your apparatus, but Putridity has calculated that a sustained burst from both your vessel and the Gravity Whelk, should be enough to provide the magnetic imbalance necessary to disable the core and make it go all wobbly and explode outwards. Magma will abound, believe me.”

Magnuss had no way of knowing whether they had days in which to act, or mere seconds; so he chose the safest path and assumed the worst. Ending the conference, he and Hair-Trigger made straight for their Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

“It’ll be a shame to see it go up in smoke.” Magnuss said as he ran inexpert eyes over the potentially uber-destructive device. “Does it look in working order?”

Hair-Trigger probably knew even less about Gravitonic Multiplicitor maintenance than Magnuss. She shrugged. “It seems to have survived the opening of the time rift. It should work. Of course, while the time rift remains open, we won’t need it to open another, so I guess wrecking it won’t really matter.”

Unseen by either earplug, Magnuss’ brothers had slipped into the room…

Rudi reminded them that whatever happened to the ship and themselves, the destruction of the alternative Earth was their first priority.

“Hey,” he concluded, “even if this ship blows up, and the wormhole collapses – leaving everyone stranded in this time-line – we gotta save the Museum of Future Technology. It’s what we do, guys.

Chester, Miles, and Valentine nodded in agreement.

“Right on.” Valentine added for good measure.

“Okay,” Magnuss replied. “Adopt the position, whatever that means. Contact the Whelk: there’s no time to use that lovely clean toilet over there: let’s do this!”  

Moments later, after a sensor scan by the K T Woo found a weak spot in the planet’s magnetic field, the Tankerville Norris and Gravity Whelk moved to a location that placed them above the southern hemisphere. There was no spectacular countdown. As soon as both ships had aligned their Gravitonic Multiplicitor emitters, they let rip with one hundred percent energy release – or Number Eleven on the twist dial…  

The surface of the ruined world succumbed in an instant…

Minutes dragged by. Only the K T Woo’s sensors could detect the disturbances in the planet’s core…

Superheated flows of inner planetary material …um…flowed… freely around the equator and from pole to pole. It was just a matter of time before one of them broke through to the surface…

Great rends, vast enough to swallow the museum whole, opened across the globe, causing continent-wide rivers of magma to spread across the darkened landscape…

As the Gravitonic Multiplicitors strained to maintain their gravimetric toil, the surface of the land melted and bubbled like a really hot lasagne…

…spitting magma high into the air. Then the toughest bedrock cracked open…

…and everyone that dared watch could see that the end was near. But which would go first – the planet – or the time-line? They held their breath. Shortly an expanding ball of molten material consumed the atmosphere…

“Ooh, bugger.” Magnuss exclaimed. Into his radio, he screamed, “Woo and Sox – you’ve got the most passengers: get the heck outta here.”

Then, with their Gravitonic Multiplicitors reduced to expensive junk, the Gravity Whelk and Tankerville Norris broke for open space – headed for the time rift. And not a moment too soon either. As they accelerated towards freedom, the alternative Earth exploded like a mini-nova…

Placebo and Folie watched it on their rear camera…

“Pretty.” Folie observed. “And it’s made our screen go all wonky too. We’ll have to get that fixed.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S I’ve been hanging on to these pictures of planetary destruction for yonks. I knew I would need them eventually. I do like a dose of planetary destruction you know.

The Epoch of Dung (part 20) An Earplug Adventure

When the news reached the Museum of Future Technology’s Avatar, whom had taken overall control of the defence of the mighty edifice…

…concern was evident. Well some concern: it’s doubtful that Auntie Doris and Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks fully comprehended what they were hearing and seeing.

“But what if it’s this time-line that’s destroyed?” The fabulous artificial lifeform wailed. “There will be no survivors anywhere!”

Montagu was more practical. “Their time on that lifeless planet is numbered in months alone. Soon the plugmutts will starve and produce no effluent. Building material and fuel will quickly dwindle. The end will be slow, inexorable, and certain.”

“Well, if you put it that way,” the Avatar’s mood lightened at this, “I guess we shouldn’t go beating ourselves up about it. But, it would be nice to know the identity of the time-line that will cease to exist, don’t you think? Some way to make certain that it’s this one that survives.”

Well, as chance would have it, the Time Techs (in the hope of gaining the approval of Cushions Smethwyke, and therefore earning their very own lavatory) had been working on the subject. They now approached the foyer in which the Avatar had emerged from the structure of the building itself…

As they entered, Gregor spoke out…

“Good news, Avatar, acolytes, hangers-on, and brown-noses.” He said. “We may have the answer to the museum’s most telling problem.”

Joining the group…

…all three Time Techs took their turn explaining their theory that should – in theory – prevent the currently-existing Museum of Future Technology from experiencing non-existence…

“Wow, aint that something!” Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks…err…cheered, after they had finished, “We gotta let the guys over there know about this. This is real hotdog with chilli sauce!”

The Avatar couldn’t argue with Cheerful Charlie’s assessment of the situation. As a result, an info transmission by foghorn along the Tubo Di Tempo, reached the Greenhorn Girls, who heard it and quickly departed so that they might pass it on to those who might use it best…

“Can we remember all the facts?” A worried Margret asked the others. “It’s a long way back. We might forget something important.”

“Nah, don’t worry.” Wendy said as she strode beside her boss. “They’ll get the gist of it. That Hydious Gout guy has a brain the size of my bottom; he’ll work it out, even if we take just half of what he heard back to him.”

Belle didn’t mind either way;  she was enjoying the simple act of watching their shadows bobble attractively in the flickering, staccato light thrown  by the Tubo Di Tempo as it powered down.

Of course, once Hydious and everyone that matters heard this, a conference quickly convened…

“It’s a no-brainer – with apologies to the Professor, who is all brain.” Cushions bellowed. “I say let’s go for it. Let’s evacuate. And I don’t mean our bowels!”

Shortly, taking what meagre possessions they had managed to pull from the ruins of the museum, the populace of the mud village began to abandon their homes and handiwork…

Some did pause in their flight to regard the quality of the artisanship included in some of the better-made walls and floors…

“Hmmm, very nice.” Former Zombie, Vic, noted. “Someone used a plumb line here – that’s obvious.”

“Good trowel work.” The female biological android behind him observed. “And that solar-powered streetlight is still glowing, despite the leaden skies and dull overcast.”

The museum had always been a busy place, and the regular inhabitants numbered in their hundreds. Therefore, it took a considerable time for everyone to evacuate. Barry Dirtbox, in particular, was having extreme difficulty finding his way out of the village – trapped, as he was, upon his own balcony…

Hair-Trigger had found herself at something of a loose end, so she took herself into the mud village in search of stragglers. Instead, she found the Angel with a Huge Nose. Or perhaps it was the other way around…

“Hair-Trigger,” the previous love interest of Magnuss Earplug said to the current one, “I sense someone’s distress. I’m very busy doing angelic stuff: would you go into the oldest part of the village and seek out some lost soul that, I’m certain, is calling out for help – if not physically, then spiritually?”

Hair-Trigger didn’t need persuading. She was gone in an instant…

Cocking an attractive ear, she listened intently. Silence greeted her tympanic membrane. Moving on, she decided to switch tactics, and use her olfactory senses…

For a moment she felt overwhelmed by the multitude of pongs – both natural and…well only natural actually. There was nothing artificial to smell. Nevertheless, one stench alone stood apart and above all others. It was the smell of fear. The fear of enclosure. She knew it well. Claustrophobia. Someone was locked in and couldn’t get out. So rounding the very next corner, she discovered a public lavatory. Smashing the door in like the professional kick-boxer she had once been, Hair-Trigger uncovered a rather annoyed female End Cap…

“Thank flip for that.” The End Cap said. “Whoever fitted this bloody door didn’t allow for swelling in a moist atmosphere. If I find the builder responsible…well I won’t be responsible for my actions. Thank you, by the way. Ooh, you’re Hair-Trigger Earplug, nee Provost. Wow, what an honour: can I have your autograph?”

  “Not right now.” Hair-Trigger replied with a smile, “You have a space ship to catch.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

More appalling modelwork on display here; but it’s all part of the story’s charm – don’t you think?

The Epoch of Dung (part 19) An Earplug Adventure

As they plunged into the cauldron of impossible energies…

…Doctor Putridity Gout said to her husband, “I know this is fun and all that, dearest; but would you might awfully if I went to the toilet? I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

If truth be known, several bridge crewmembers felt much the same way.

“Oh, of course, darling.” Hydious replied. However, to the bridge crew he said, “You lot can use the polystyrene cups provided in those little cubby holes beside your work stations. As ship designers, my wife and I think of everything, you know.”

No one had the first idea how long the transit between time-lines would take. They assumed it would be measurable on an earplug scale. It wasn’t. Only an incomprehensibly brief period elapsed before the Tankerville Norris found itself approaching the alternative Earth…

“Just getting the main screen back up.” Hair-Trigger informed Magnuss.

“No probs.” Her relatively new husband replied. “I’ve opened an exterior shutter. I can see our target through the side window. It looks very blue. Not the usual blue either. I don’t like the look of that.”

He barely had sufficient time to reseat himself, when the main screen readjusted itself for the alternative time-line, and came back on-line.  What it displayed caused havoc inside the psyches of the earplugs who looked at it…

“Ugh, where’s the surface of the Earth?” Magnuss asked. “The ruins of the museum are over to the left; but the neighbouring city of Ciudad de Droxford should be just there. All I can see is a huge plain with some distant, worn-down mountains…

Aboard the larger, better-equipped K T Woo, Hamish McHaggis had turned the ship’s sensitive sensors upon the scene…

“Oh-oh,” he reported to Sinclair Brooch, “it seems that, with the exception of the ruins and mud village, the Earth is both uninhabited and uninhabitable, captain.”

To which Sinclair responded, “Oh bum.” Before adding, “Hey maybe the other captains have a handle on this. Get on the horn: let’s jaw.”

Meanwhile several inhabitants of the mud village thought they heard something ‘funny’ and had decided to see what was going on outside…

“It’s a spaceship.” They cried as one. “As if being disconnected from the river of time and seeing our beloved museum torn to shreds isn’t enough; now we’re being invaded from outer space! Everyone back inside.”

Of course, they weren’t being invaded at all. Soon many curtains twitched nervously as the Tankerville Norris kicked up dust, straw, mould spores, and stray sequins as it landed in the village’s largest plaza…

Shortly after that, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger stepped out into the village. Following a brief journey via matter transmitter, Hydious Gout and Sinclair Brooch joined them. Using their innate sense of direction, the foursome proceeded along a poorly lit alleyway…

To their surprise, they heard the voice of Cushions Smethwyke beckoning them into a mud hut…

They were not as surprised however, when upon entering the mud hut, they found familiar faces awaiting them…

“Wow, this is weird.” Magnuss said. “Hi everyone.”

To which Cushions responded with, “Hi yourself. Have you come to save us? Or are you alternative time-liners, like us – trapped here until reconnection with the river of time and possible utter destruction?”

Hydious Gout assured the watching curators and Rupert Piles (sans camera) that his plan was to take them all back to their correct time-line aboard the four ships, where they would reintegrate with their alternative selves.

“It will all be perfectly safe and painless.” He assured them further. “You won’t be mutually repulsive. You won’t fly across the room or explode or anything ghastly like that.”

“Will we remember this life?” the biological android, Montagu inquired. “This horror?”

“Probably.” Hydious replied. “You’ll probably feel a little disoriented. You’ll have two sets of memories. It will leave you a bit confused, and you might suffer a headache or a sore throat for a couple of weeks; but nothing discombobulating – at least not permanently.”

“Oh, right.” Yabu said to Cushions, “we’d better get our set of Time Techs to fire up the restored Tubo Di Tempo, and then have Margret and the girls make a report to the proper time-line via carrier wave.”

So they did…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S I can’t get over how realistic that mud village looks. You can almost smell the straw and dung. Oh, sorry, I mean the opposite. That has to be the worst model-making effort in the history of earplug literature! Never mind though; back in the 70’s, Dr Who used to look terrible; but that didn’t stop millions from loving it.

The Epoch of Dung (part 18) An Earplug Adventure

Mars, meanwhile, witnessed the arrival of the Tankerville Norris in its sky…

As the former honeymoon barge swept across the terraformed wilderness, the Future Museum of Mars curator, Frisby Mumph stood beside his huge cork assistant, William of Porridge, and watched whilst the Earplug Brothers were plucked from the surface via matter transmitter…

He sighed. “Now what are we going to do with that hover scout vehicle they drove over there in?” He complained. “I suppose I’m going to have to walk all that distance, on my aging feet, to fetch it back to the museum.”

William nodded, but failed to volunteer himself for the task. Then he had a thought: “Hey, Frisby, they’ve left their space submarine freighter behind. That’s salvage now. We could have it. Perhaps Lillie and I might have a nice weekend away in it.”

Aboard the Tankerville Norris, the light of four transporting earplugs illuminated the rear of the bridge…

Although they still glowed with residual radiation and Martian detritus, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger didn’t hesitate to leap from their seats and welcome Chester, Miles, Valentine, and Rudi aboard…

“Hey, what a groove.” Valentine spoke calmly, as if being snatched from the surface of a planet and deposited aboard a star ship was an everyday occurrence, “I was just examining a Martian tuba for infestation by terrestrial bugs and stuff, when, zap, I was here with my little bro. What’s going down, man?”

Magnuss explained the situation. As eldest brother, Rudi formally volunteered the family for action. “We’re in. So what are we gonna do, Magnuss?” He asked.

“Not sure.” Magnuss replied. “But look outside: we’ve reached the Moon, and it looks like the Gravity Whelk is waiting for us…

Hair-Trigger had only just made contact with Folie and Placebo aboard the Gravity Whelk, when, simultaneously, the huge star ships, Chi-Z-Sox and K T Woo arrived from hyperspace…

“Ooh, the big boys have arrived.” Hair-Trigger said admiringly. “I figure the space / time continuum is about to get its ass kicked.”

Professor Hydious Gout dispensed with preamble. “Gentlemen and lady of the Tankerville Norris and Gravity Whelk,” he announced over the com-system, “prepare your Gravitonic Multiplicitors. Point them at the coordinates that my charming and intelligent wife is transmitting to you whilst I speak; turn them up to max; and let rip.”

Folie was only too happy to oblige. Their very recent refit included an upgraded Gravitonic Multiplicitor that didn’t need disassembly and placement in space, remote from the ship.

“We’re on it, Hyd.” He responded.

Hair-Trigger was a little more circumspect. “Aligning our Gravitonic Multiplicitor with your coordinates now.” She replied.

A moment later…

…space/time took a battering it wouldn’t forget – even if it lasted for eternity. The resultant rip in the fabric of reality became visible from any point in the Solar System. Well the bits of it that pointed in the right direction could anyway. These included the view screen of the Gravity Whelk

Placebo noted that the Tankerville Norris had pulled slightly ahead of the Gravity Whelk. “You seem keen to take point, Magnuss” he said into his radio, “why don’t you show us the way.”

This was an invitation that Hair-Trigger, Magnuss, or his courageous brothers couldn’t resist. In a moment to savour, all four of the spacecraft launched themselves at the opening in space/time…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, so the ‘A’ Team’s on the case, eh? Looking good for the doppelgangers, methinks. If anyone can thwart the efforts of entropy, it’ll be that bunch of silicon heroes.

The Epoch of Dung (part 17) An Earplug Adventure

The following episode could be titled ‘Earplugs Assemble’.

Yes, Earpluggers, some ‘big names’ are about to appear. See how many you can remember from earlier tales. All of them. I expect.

Chapter 6

At that moment, but in the regular space / time continuum, the Wetworld star ship – Chi-Z-Sox hung motionless in the depths of interstellar space…

Its captain – noted scientist of Wetworld, and designer of the Chi-Z-Sox, Professor Hydious Gout sat in the captain’s chair, with his wife (and co-designer) Doctor Putridity Gout beside him…

Despite cosmic interference, Cushions Smethwyke and several Museum of Future Technology curators appeared aboard the Omnipresent Scanner upon the ship’s main viewer. Cushions wasted no time getting straight to the point. It was a pre-recorded message that summed up the situation of Earth in as few words as possible. It also instructed all vessels to return to Earth with utmost haste.

At the same time, but on the Ice Planet, the Tankerville Norris was conducting a low-level sweep with the ship’s sensors…

Thereafter the occupants – Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug, dismissed all thoughts and concerns for the underbelly of the planet’s crust…

…as they too received the message.

“Flipping heck,” Hair-Trigger yelled as the ship altered course for open space automatically, “I didn’t expect that.”

“Me neither.” Magnuss agreed. “Let’s get to Mars: I want to pick up the boys.”

Hair-Trigger was out of her space seat like a scalding tea bag…

“If we’re having guests,” she called over her shoulder as she strode towards the door, “I’m going to clean the toilet before they come aboard.”

Much farther away in space, The Gravity Whelk hung motionless in a Scrotonite space station – transportation umbilical conduits attached at several access points…

Placebo Bison and Folie Krimp had just received confirmation that their systems upgrade was complete…

…when Cushions’ message arrived…

“Right then.” Folie said. “We’d better ask for permission to detach the umbilicals. Time waits for no earplug.”

“Or polystyrene blob.” Placebo added.

The K T Woo, Worstworld’s first star ship…

…was taking the scenic route home when Cushion’s message arrived…

The captain – former Sheriff of Busted Gut, Sinclair Brooch, was nonplussed…

“Oh dear, that sure is unexpected.” He sighed. “Guess that’s our sight-seeing done with.” Then, to his helms-plug, Busti Missenthrope, he said, “Put a call through to the engine room: tell ‘em to pile on the coals. Set course for Earth.”

In the K T Woo’s engine room, the End Cap engineers went straight to work…

“I wasn’t enjoying the sight-seeing anyway.” One of them complained. “My cabin’s got the smallest porthole in the whole ship – and it’s set really high upon the wall. I have to use a stepladder and cardboard periscope to see out.”

“That’s nothing.” Another replied. “My toilet hasn’t worked for weeks.”

Listening absentmindedly, the earplug getting a coffee from the Café Puke machine said, “You’re an engineer: why don’t you fix it?”

To which the aggrieved End Cap replied, “Below my paid grade, pal. I don’t fix toilets. I got my pride, ya know.”

Moments later, the ship was underway – at supra light speed…

Whilst the Gravity Whelk debarked from the space station…

…the Tankerville Norris was hammering through a hyperspace conduit…

 …on its way to a rendezvous with Magnuss’ four heroic brothers.

Professor Hydious Gout, meanwhile, had received a second communication from the Museum of Future Technology…

It came from none other than the Time Techs themselves…

Gregor was, perhaps, a tad overly familiar:

“Hydious, baby, how’s it hangin’, man?”

Professor Gout would have preferred the Time Techs behave with a little more reverence. “Fine,” he snapped, “What do want? I’ve already got the throttles wide open: I can’t go any faster.”

“No – no, it’s nothing like that.” Twinkles assured the captain of the Chi-Z-Sox.

“We’ve thought of something really important.” Runt added. “You being a brilliant scientist and all that, we figured we might run it past you.”

“That’s right.” Gregor continued. “You’re the earplug, right? It’s about accessing the alternate time-line that Cushions mentioned in her communique earlier.”

Gout smiled at this. “I think I might be ahead of you, young earplug.” He said to the image of Gregor Koch. “My charming and intelligent wife and I were just in the lavatory. We discussed this very subject.”

“Gravity waves, right?” Twinkles ventured.

“Gravity waves, indeed.” Gout confirmed the middle Time Tech’s hypothesis.

“Really intense ones.” Doctor Putridity Gout interjected.

“Very precisely aimed.” Runt joined in.

It appeared that all five scientists were in accord, so whilst the Chi-Z-Sox barrelled through the vacuum of space…

…they lay their fledgling plan upon the metaphorical table.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Whatta ya think of the ‘landscape’ in the picture of the Tankerville Norris over the Ice World surface? Convincing, right? Okay, I agree, it does look like what it is: my bedsheet.

P.P.S I use the text-to-speech app, ReadAloud for finding typos that I missed. Unfortunately it pronounces the Chi-Z-Sox as Chy Zed Sox, when, of course, it should say Chee Zee Sox. Just thought you should know.

P.P.P.S Ah, I finally get to use that Earplug Wallpaper of the Gravity Whelk disembarking from the space station. Nice shot.

The Epoch of Dung (part 16) An Earplug Adventure

It was later, after dusk was a mere memory that an exhausted Gobby stumbled from his abode…

A single streetlight, burning plugmutt piddle for fuel, illuminated him. He sent a silent plea into the evening sky. Elsewhere in the village, Rupert Piles was doing much the same…

However, his concern was immediate. Incredibly, his camera’s energy levels had dwindled and run down. Despite the presence of the working Nul-Space generator, the power was failing. It didn’t take a genius to work out that the generator could not produce the power from Nul-Space, because there was no Nul-Space to draw it from. Clearly, their time-line was on the brink of non-existence. Re-integration with the River of Time was imminent. However, he kept the information to himself: it had been a great show, and he wanted people to go to bed happy.

“Arse!” He said quietly to the increasing darkness.

The Angel with a Huge Nose – being an angel, of course – may have understood that their time was drawing near. Perhaps it was, as an act of desperation, which made her take the former weightlifters, Mandy and Candy, with their boyfriends – former zombies, Vic and Bob – up onto the roof of the mud village…

…to perform in the only way they could. However, instead of the spectacular three-dimensional farts for which the quartet had become famous, they produced just one. But, incredibly, it was invisible. More significantly, it was silent and deadly. When it struck Gobby, as he stood in the dregs of the day…

…he reacted against the foul smell to end all foul smells by sending it back in time by fifteen minutes. Moreover, it was then that the earplug presence in the fractured time-line finally became noticed…

…by the Tiny Pixelated Gods of Scurrying Things, who passed on the information to…

…the God of Red-Faced Fish. The God of Red-Faced Fish knew very little about earplugs, so it passed the recording of the show to the God of Water Butts and Sundry Liquid Containers…

This God was a high-level dude in the realm of the Supreme Being. Noting that time was tight, it reacted instantaneously. The Supreme Being was in the act of enjoying a warm bath…

It was only a shallow bath, but it was very nice and steamy. It was a rare moment of bliss for the hard-working creator of everything silicon. But his moment of reverie was broken suddenly, when he became aware that he was not alone…

In an instant, the steam evaporated, and all the water’s heat went with it.

“What the heck?” He began.

Then he recognised the eight figures standing before him…

Ninja, in particular, was giving him the ‘evil eye’. “Earplugs.” She said. “Just in case you’re wondering.”

The Supreme Being became enraged…

 “How dare you!” He roared so loudly that Margret feared she might develop tinnitus. “This is a shallow bath: there are insufficient bubbles in the water to hide my willy. It is outrageous that eight female earplugs should see my doo-dads without my permission. It’s not like you’re nurses or anything like that: you’re dancers, for flip’s sake!”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Ninja growled…

…”do you really believe we’d be here if we wanted to? No, we’d like to be going about our business being earplugs in the regular space / time continuum. We’re here because we need your help. And you owe us – that’s earplugs in general, by the way. Do you recall how the false SB tossed you in a big wooden crate…?

…and had you bound and gagged?

That is until the Earplug Brothers freed you and helped you defeat the false Supreme Being?”

Margret didn’t wait for an answer: like her dancing girls, she had assumed that the question was rhetorical. “We’re the female equivalent of the Earplug Brothers, S B. This time we need your help. Savvy?”

As is the way of Gods, the Supreme Being had no need of a towel. In no time at all he was dry and clothed. He also held Ninja Perkins in the palm of his hand…

“Of course. Of course.” He said – all anger abated. “I always have time for my most accomplished creations. What ails thee, Ninja Perkins?”

Ninja looked back at the Supreme Being…

“Well,” she said, “I’d always wanted to be a dancer; but that seems rather pathetic now. I’m giving up on that. No, what I really need from you is…”

However, the Supreme Being had read her mind. “The Ion Storm in the Solar System is quenched.” He said. “Now it’s up to your kind to save the day. I know you can do it. Bye Ninja, Margret, Poki, Ragi, Belle, Wendy, Delia and Nokaks: have a happy existence.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S If it hadn’t been the for the timely placement of my hand upon the bath grabrail, it would have been more than the Greenhorn Girls who saw the Supreme Being’s willy!

P.P.S have you noticed how much SB has aged since he first appeared in the Earplug Adventures. I have no explanation for this. Curious.

P.P.P.S That bloody yellow t-shirt again. It must be SB’s favourite colour!

The Epoch of Dung (part 15) An Earplug Adventure

Fortunately, for the following dance, someone had found a large piece of green stained glass, which he or she then placed in front of the lantern that lit the plaza…

The timing was perfect, because Belle took the central role in what Margret called her ‘Nut Jobs in the Wood’ dance. She’d even designed the hazelnut hats they wore, and was understandably proud of her work.

A pseudo-waltz then took centre stage…

…with Margret, Belle, and Poki swirling around the plaza in the only flouncy dresses they had managed to bring with them through the Tubo Di Tempo. It was an artistic delight, and everyone who saw it knew they would probably never forget this moment of perfect earplug elegance. Some even sobbed with joy at the beauty of the spectacle.

Of course, with his camera fully powered by an internal Nul-Space generator, Rupert Piles captured every moment and movement of the show…

For a pastoral routine, and in the absence of the maypole, the girls chose, instead, to dance around an enormous poop…

However, the fumes given off by the extreme excrement…

…meant that Margret had to abbreviate the routine before they collapsed. Fortunately, a few gulps of cool evening air soon had the girl’s wits reunited with their feet, and it was on to the show-stopping Kicking Line that showgirls, the world over, are most famous for…

Then it was over. Done. Finished. The curtain, had there been one, would have fallen. Cushions came on to calm the frenzied crowd…

She addressed those for whom the show had really been performed.

“Gods,” she said, “did you see that? Did you see what earplugs are capable of? We call out to you, in your weird realm of weirdiness. We beseech you take a bit of bloody notice, you stuck-up gits. Look at what your creations can do. Look at the crap we’re in too. So show yourselves. Take these lovely, leggy dancing girls, and listen to what they have to say. That’s it. Oh, and yeah: help!”

With Nature Beast’s support, Gobby staggered forward…

“I’m doing it.” He groaned. “I’m repeating this show, over and over, at fifteen minute intervals. If the gods don’t see it the first time, they can use the temporal catch up facility.”

“That’s good,” Cushions said as the light of the distant sunset made the plaza glow a pleasant shade of yellow…

…”coz you’re also re-broadcasting Rupert’s televised version as well…

…Surely some higher-order sod’s gonna spot it.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now, Earpluggers all we can do is sit back and wait for a response. Will one come? Pray that it does: we can’t have those pesky Incence Cones destroy our beloved Earplugs!

The Epoch of Dung (part 14) An Earplug Adventure

Whilst word spread, Margret discovered a broken piece of technology that originated in the ruined museum. It was covered in plop, and smelt nasty too. Nevertheless, she pressed on, and the latent sound technician in the experienced dance troupe owner soon noticed the tonal qualities of the debris…

So she placed her tape player behind it.

“Hmm, what with that wall to bounce the sound off it too,” she said to herself with satisfaction, “the reverb should prove excellent. They’ll probably hear this clean across what remains of the Woven Expanse. ”

As it transpired, the natural amplifier worked better than she’d imagined. Her almost silent words had entered every one of the nearby domiciles – drawing their occupants out to see for themselves what dancing girls looked like…

…on every side of the plaza…

“An earplug cannot live on bread alone,” a droopy moustachioed earplug in dark glasses was heard to yell. “He’s gotta have some entertainment too. Bring on those leggy lovelies.”

Once Margret was satisfied with the quantity of watching earplugs, she and the girls took up their opening positions, whilst Ninja, Yabu, and Cushions introduced them…

Margret was particularly impressed with the way that Ninja fluttered her eyelids, and wondered where she had found the false eyelashes and mascara.

Then the pre-recorded band struck up, and those waiting upon balconies and in upper windows held their collective breath…

Some became so excited that they lost their sense of balance, fell over, and allowed their eyes to bulge from their heads in a vile, leering manner…

Of course, the Curator Elite retained their decorum. In fact, Pretty Boy Plankton looked in the opposite direction completely; and Winston Gloryhole’s eyes only bulged slightly more than was usual…

Unseen by many, Gobby waited in the ‘wings’ to play his part. His friend, Nature Beast stood beside him in support, both spiritually and physically…

Should Gobby’s body fail through the effort of turning back the chronometer of life a multitude of times, Nature Beast would hold him up and give him strength to continue. If his will weakened, Nature Beast was there to give him a good kick in the shins and shout threatening, if incoherent, monosyllables at him loudly.

Then suddenly, just when everyone was on the brink of getting impatient, the girls snapped into action with a dance that Margret named The Runway Wriggle, which showed, in minute detail, their incredible buttock control and the brevity of their sequined knickers…

A tribute to Mariachi bands quickly followed…

…entitled: “Hola, I like your trumpet: why don’t you give me a toot.”

Sadly, Poki developed a nasty cough – probably from breathing in fungus spores that blew around the piles of mouldy straw in darkened corners – that ruined the vocal chorus by removing the alto facet completely.

This was followed by a disgusting clichéd routine that had no place in the modern world, which supposedly represented Old China…

However, no one cared one jot because the girls looked fabulous.

“Who gives a fig anyway?” Cushions whispered to Yabu. “This is our mud village: we’ll be as racially clichéd as we sodding want. Who’s gonna tell us off?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What – no support act? Who needs support acts when you’ve got the Greenhorn Girls!

The Epoch of Dung (part 13) An Earplug Adventure

Chapter 5

Cushions need not have worried that Margret would fail her. Already she had contacted the chief curator’s doppelganger in the ruined remains of the once-flooded, but now drained arboretum…

“Cushions,” she said, “you are not going to believe the idea I came up with. Several factors led me to it. To a degree, it was the Bozo Brothers burying of their sister and their belief in a higher power. It was also the non-corrupting cup of coffee beneath the spotlight. And, of course, Rupert Piles and his huge three-dee television camera. Combined, these seemingly disparate events and objects…ugh…combined…to inspire me, and draw a fabulous conclusion. In short, I have a plan. It may seem ridiculous, but I think it’s the only chance we have.”

“Ridiculous, you say?” Cushions responded guardedly. “Let me be the judge of that. What’s the plan?”

A half-hour later, the strange being, known as Gobby, was strolling through the mud village with some characters who one could be forgiven for considering odd companions to such a cerebral giant. They were the rough ‘n’ ready and almost monosyllabic Nature Beast: the former substrata-dwelling weirdo, Grey-Vee; and a junior officer with the United Stoats Seventh Cavalry, the name of whom no one could ever remember…

Like his companions, Gobby had been imbibing fermented fruit juice. Consequently, he had taken to singing very rude songs loudly in a pleasant, if slightly nasal falsetto. Nature Beast, Grey-Vee, and the unidentified junior officer were accompanying with harmonic doo-waps and shoobie-doobie-doos. However, all this ceased when Margret led most of her troupe out from a small store shed in which they had being walking through a few routines…

Immediately the unnamed officer’s regulation cavalry hat fell from his inebriated head. Grey-Vee’s Mohican stood on end; and Gobby thought he was seeing things.

“Ugh?” he grunted – the song dismissed and forgotten, “Astonishingly beautiful girls? Wha-wha-what’s happening, man?”

Ignoring the doo-wap trio, Margret addressed Gobby directly. “Gobby,” she said, “I need you desperately.”

This surprised Gobby, and he attempted to straighten a tie that he wasn’t wearing. “Oh, really…ah…jolly good and all that.”

Whilst Margret quickly reassessed her opening gambit; and Poki found herself finding the junior officer rather fetching – as he reattached his hat to the top of his head; and Delia discovered that Nature Beast made her wish she was somewhere else, Grey-Vee was already backing away in search of a boulder or something she could hide behind to have a wee.

“Let me start again.” Margret said. “I have a plan to save the Museum of Future Technology: everyone inside it: and everyone in this alternative time-line too. But I’m going to need your talent for manipulating time.”

Gobby’s inebriation evaporated instantly. “Sod off, you lot.” He said to his singing chums – who acquiesced to his instruction without argument…

He then turned his attention to the girls. “Shoot.” He said.

“We’re going to put on a show.” Margret explained. “A dancing show, with taped music. I’ve got a tape machine in my handbag, with the music from our last show still in it. All we need is some form of sound enhancement. Something to make it louder. But that’s not a problem right now: I’m sure we’ll find something amongst the detritus that can double up as a sound box.”

“A show?” Gobby replied doubtfully. “How very charming. Very entertaining too, I’m sure. But how is this going to help us and the Museum of Future Technology?”

“Yes.” Nokaks squealed with ill-disguised enthusiasm. “We’re going to get someone’s attention. Someone who will sit up and notice us.”

“That’s right,” Ragi joined in, “someone with clout.”

“Someone,” Poki added, “who likes earplugs – probably a lot.”

Gobby understood in an instant. “The Gods.” He yelled. “You are going to try and get the attention of the Gods. Oh, Ladies, that is inspired. What do you want me to do: repeat performances every fifteen minutes?”

“Exactly.” Margret smiled sweetly. “And Rupert Piles’ camera has a Nul-Space generator built-in; so he can transmit in real time to the entire listening universe.”

A short while later Margret found Cushions in the arboretum where someone had found a few slabs of concrete beneath the mud. She couldn’t help but notice that a couple of flowers had bloomed too. Cushions took this as an omen…

“It’s a go.” Margret said as they strolled across the sodden surface.

“Did you have anywhere in mind for the performance?” Cushions inquired.

“There’s a small plaza in the village centre.” Margret answered. “It’s reasonably flat, and the surrounding buildings will amplify my tape player wonderfully. I hope to have the girls ready for a matinee performance. We brought a limited number of costumes with us, but I don’t think people will notice: most of them aren’t looking at the costumes anyway.”

Cushions wasn’t one waste time or prevaricate: only ten minutes had passed before she, Yabu, Ninja, and the Greenhorn Girls entered the village centre plaza and began advertising the forthcoming event by word of mouth…

Ninja’s voice, in particular, was…ugh…particularly strident:

“Come on, you lot,” she bellowed like a Docker on steroids, which, of course her father was, and had trained his daughter well. “Put aside all those wobbly clay pots you’re trying to shape into wine goblets.” She continued. “Cast off the yokes upon your shoulders that support erns of recently squeezed plugmutt milk. And stop trying to stick pointy bits of flint on the ends of sticks – they’ll never make good arrows anyway. In any case, what are you going to shoot them at? Do yourself a favour: come out to see a show. See the beautiful dancing girls, with their powerful thighs and skimpy costumes.”

The others too called out, with voices that quickly grew hoarse. However, slowly faces began to appear outside their hovels…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What else did you expect a bunch of dancing girls to do? An earplug should always play to its strength.

Wallpaper 639: The Breakfast Sentinel

Every morning, before breakfast, I shuffle to my garden shed to feed the wild birds in my garden. The first to arrive is Jacques, the Robin, who flutters in front of me like an inebriated humming bird, demanding access to perch upon my hand and pick through the tit-bits I have for him. Then, as I emerge fully, and begin to place the food upon the various feeders in my quince tree, the resident crow  starts calling to the other birds  from my roof – announcing that breakfast is served… 

Why it has taken on this role, I have no idea: but the pigeons and jackdaws seem particularly pleased that it has.

 

The Epoch of Dung (part 12) An Earplug Adventure

Shortly Angel was only too pleased to report recent events to Cushions Smethwyke…

“This can’t be coincidence,” Yabu said as he and Cushions were appraised of the situation.

“It can’t?” Cushions questioned the leader of Yabu Youth.

“Well yes, obviously it can; but it’s very unlikely.” Yabu replied. “Funny, don’t you think that just when something goes seriously awry with the Tunnel Temporale, we find a bunch of enemy Incense Cones hiding in the bowels of the museum?”

“When you put it that way, I guess you’re right.” Cushions acknowledged the logic of Yabu’s reasoning. “But how are we gonna find out: they don’t speak our language – and they think like weird aliens!”

“Leave that to me.” Angel said. “Let me remind you that when the museum was attacked by End Caps from Hyperspace, I used my power of illusion upon them. It even worked upon their Attack Robots. I have a plan for this bunch of evil subversives. They are going to tell us everything they know.”

Five minutes later Angel had joined the captives in the museum’s jail. Five minutes and one second later, all six captives had forgotten they’d ever been in a fight, and were safely ensconced inside their hidey-hole. Moreover, their leader – Emperor Conrad Moose – appeared to…uh…appear on their com-panel…

“Right then,” Emperor Conrad Moose’s voice seemed to roar from the tinny speaker grille, “I’ve been very, very busy running my enormous empire, and I’ve kind of, sort of, forgotten why I sent you to the Museum of Future Technology. So I want you to bring me up to speed with my plan and what you’ve been doing whilst I’ve been very, very busy. Oh, and by the way, I’ve decided to learn Earplug really well, so use that language. Use our own language, and I’m gonna get really angry with you. Understand? Right: go.”

The Incense Cone Infiltration and Temporal Dislocation Squad – as they liked to call themselves – were slightly taken aback by this: their emperor usually despised anything related to earplugs, except news of their failures and disasters. To demand they use the cursed language of their enemies confused them: but they rallied quickly…

“Um, where would you like us to start?” The pink Incense Cone inquired.

Major Flaccid, who was providing the voice of Conrad Moose, decided to take a chance: it would be inadvisable to rouse his captive’s suspicions by knowing nothing whatsoever about their mission. “Well obviously I remember the earplug’s horrible Tunnel Temporale is involved: but I can’t quite recall exactly what you’re supposed to do with it. Like I said, I’m a very, very busy emperor.”

This seemed to settle the Incense Cones. It was the turn of the pink Incense Cone to preface his opening line with the word ‘well’. “Well,” he said as he tried to ignore a nagging and implausible ache in his groin, “we travelled the requisite amount of distance in time to this era, where we set off a chain reaction in the Temporal Cascade Equaliser. Coming from a period in which the technology is more advanced than it is in this era, it was easy-peasy to kick-start the troublesome Tunnel Temporale with a remote hyperspace signal. The first the locals knew of it was when the Tunnel burst into life. But then something unexpected happened, and we don’t really know why.”

“We suspect,” the blue Incense Cone, volunteered, “that the activation of the Tunnel Temporale initiated an instantaneous time storm. Rather than destroy the current Museum of Future Technology, as planned, which would then instigate a massive incursion into this portion of space/time, by our gallant assault troops from the future, and the annihilation of any surviving earplug resistance, something else happened.”

Major Flaccid – a keen ‘amateur dramatics’ actor in his spare time – decided to ‘go large’. “What?” He roared. “What?”

Angel inserted a suitable visual representation of Conrad Moose…

This resulted in the exposing of Incense Cone physical characteristics that earplugs were unaware of…

…those being enormous gobs; startled expressions; and nasty odours that erupted from their hindquarters.

 The pale Incense Cone with yellow lips was the first to overcome its shock and horror. “It’s not all bad.” The creature said hurriedly. “We seem to have created a divergent time-line.”

“Explain to me how this is ‘not all bad’.” The Moose/Flaccid apparition demanded.

“When the alternate time-line reintegrates with the flow of time,” The Green-Eyed individual at the end of the line interjected – and therefore hoped to gain some ‘Brownie’ points – “disaster will be invoked. One of the time-lines will be destroyed. We are currently in the process of constructing some advanced devices, of my design, that will guarantee that it’s this time-line that fails to survive re-integration. We’ll poke them down the Tubo Di Tempo as we leave, just before temporal re-integration commences.”

Flaccid gulped at this news. Fortunately, his ‘subjects’ put this down to a case of ‘wind’. “Yeah-yeah,” he mumbled as he tried to collect his wits, “But won’t the accursed earplugs spot the devices and remove them?”

“No probs.” The pale blue Incense Cone – sensing that it was in danger of being a mere spectator in the Emperor’s eyes – said quasi-confidently. “We’re wrapping them in Bags of Invisibility.”

Again, Flaccid found himself caught unawares. This time, however, an involuntary and enormous fart enveloped his entire body, which was serendipitous because it gave his brain the energy it required to think quickly and with precision. “Oh, good. What do they look like? Do the earplug’s Cones of Invisibility interact with them – rendering their contents visible?”

“They look like unused plastic roasting bags.” The grey Incense Cone, who was beginning to feel like a bystander, answered. “Inflated ones, of course, with the little plastic ties pulled tight. We’ve calculated the likelihood of an earplug-built Cone of Invisibility making contact with our Bags of Invisibility, and therefore rendering it visible, as less than one in a million. Don’t worry, Emperor Moose, the earplugs won’t know what hit ‘em. In fact, they won’t even know they’ve been hit. They won’t exist.”

The pink Incense Cone didn’t want to appear to have lost control of the conversation: “Yeah, that’s right.” He said. “We don’t know what the alternate version of the museum is gonna be like exactly; but it aint gonna be pretty. We can clear them out in no time at all – excuse the pun.”

Naturally, Angel took this startling information to Cushions and Yabu…

Cushions quickly shifted mental gears. “Okay,” she said, “I’m not quite sure what we can do with this info, but at least we’ve got the perpetrators under lock and key. Let’s hope Margret Greenhorn and her leggy dancing girls are on the case in the other time-line.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022