Category Archives: Photography

Surprise Visit (part 20)

I’m surprised that the story has stretched this far. Twenty episodes and more to come – though not many, it must be said. It’s been fun for me. I hope you enjoyed it a bit too. But enough of that stuff: on with the show…

Meanwhile, and in blissful ignorance of what was happening behind his back, the blue cable end awaited the arrival of his captives…

As Nigel and Beatrix strode haughtily before him, he said:

“Nigel. Beatrix – formerly Gloria. I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to meet you both – but I’d be lying. I’d rather hoped that by the time my infiltration into your planetary government was complete, you’d both be dead, and I’d never have to clap eyes on you. But no, you had to precipitate my actions. You had to launch a foolhardy solo attack upon the heart of my empire. And just when I’m on the brink of taking the Museum of Future Technology and all it contains. You’re a twit. A nuisance. A silly old sod who should be watching parades of Sea Cadets and Nurses and stuff.”

As the blue cable end drew breath to continue his tirade, Nigel interrupted…

“Sir, you have me at a disadvantage.”

The blue cable end scoffed. “Too right I have, pal: you’re my prisoner!”

“He doesn’t mean that, you silly oaf.” Beatrix snapped.

“That’s right.” Nigel agreed with a nod. “You know me – obviously because I’m the leader of Scroton; but I don’t have the faintest idea who you are.”

“Neither of us has ever met you before.” Beatrix added. “You look different; if we’d met you, we’d remember it. You’re an ugly bleeder; you’re kind of dark where you should be light and light where you should be dark. You don’t look like any Scrotonite I’ve ever heard of.”

If the blue cable end could have smiled, it would have been of the grim kind…

“There is a good reason for that, you silly old bag.” He ground out between gnashing teeth. “I am not a Scrotonite. I am The Cobalt One – though I prefer to be addressed as DeRorr Smionc – if you don’t mind. Now say it after me – together: DeRorr Smionc. DeRorr Smionc.”

Of course the leader of Scroton failed utterly to be baited. Instead he said:

“If you are not a Scrotonite, then what are you?”

Smionc threw back his head so that his plume waved gracefully in the thin air of the brown planet. “I am a Cruton!” He roared.

This surprised the captives from Scroton…

…though they managed to hide it quite successfully.

“And where is Cruton?” Nigel inquired.

“You’re standing on it, dumbass.” The snarled reply came quickly.

“So why aren’t we aware of Cruton?” Beatrix demanded. “We’ve mapped every cubic centimetre of Weird Space – and there is definitely no planet called Cruton there!”

“Yet here you are.” Smionc said gently.

Nigel was a practical kind of cable end:

“What do you want?”

“What I want, Nige,” Smionc replied, “is to place Scroton where it belongs in the Galactic hierarchy: somewhere near the top. I don’t want Scroton to design and build wonderful tech for inferior species: I want them to run roughshod over them. I don’t want Scroton to sell stuff to anyone: I want them to take it – by force if necessary!”

For a moment Nigel was shocked into silence: but he recovered quickly:

“That is not the way of Scroton.” He said – almost by rote. “That is not the reason that we were gifted sentience and self-awareness. We are not warlike, ogres, or complete rotters. We like to do business instead.”

Smionc sighed at this. “Oh so high and noble.” He snarled. “Next you’ll be telling me that you’re not aware of the alien overseers that lurk beneath ground and watch your every move. Alien overseers who routinely report to the beings that gave you your precious sentience and self-awareness.”

Nigel looked to Beatrix. She looked back. Bafflement passed between them.

“Um,” he said to Smionc, his stentorian tone quenched to mere serf levels, “that would be a no.”

“Thought so.” Smionc said knowingly. “We caught ours years ago. Look, here’s a picture of some of them.”

He flicked a photograph across the brief divide. Nigel picked it up and looked at it…

“They were in the process of being rounded up within their subterranean lair.” DeRorr Smionc explained. “They didn’t put up any resistance – the spineless curs.”

“I recognise the majority of them as being a sub-species of polystyrene blob.” Nigel responded. “Very peaceful people. We do a lot of work for them. The other creature though…I’ve never seen the like.”

“Mushroom-Headed Earplug.” Smionc informed the leader of Scroton. “They didn’t take long to break. They spilled their guts quickly enough. Some of them were there, right at the beginning. They oversaw the selection of cable ends for enlightenment. The ones with the good DNA were left on Scroton to form the society you have today. The others were packed off to another planet and kept as a back-up team should the whole Scroton Experiment fail or your world become uninhabitable because of over- industrialisation. Guess who they were.”

“Oh, so it’s sour grapes, is it?” Beatrix snapped. “You’ve got lousy DNA, and hate us for having everything you haven’t. Well poo to you!”

“You’re right.” Smionc, his calm shattered by Beatrix’s insight, bellowed. “And there was sod-all we could do about it – what with Scroton being protected by the ancient aliens who vigilantly watch over the poxy place. But, when we get the futuristic stuff from the Museum of Future Technology, they won’t be able to wrap you up in cotton wool any more. Scroton will become an annex of Cruton. Together, whether you like it or not, we will rule the Galaxy!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now say after me…Derorr Smionc. Derorr Smionc, This is possibly the stupidest name I’ve ever invented. What better reason could there be for including it!

PS In one of the earlier tales, the Museum of Future Technology’s ill tempered gardener drowned in an outpouring of slurry, but was reanimated by intelligent bacteria that lived within the slurry. He became Mister Shit, but because I rewrote the early (rude) stories to be more family-friendly, his name was changed to Mister Plop. I’ve always liked that name. Still have the earplug. Must include him in another story.

PPS Some people prefer my ramblings to the actual story. Are you one of them?

Surprise Visit (part 19)

I often begin an episode with the words ‘No Preamble: just story’ or something similar. Well, if it wasn’t for this smidgen of preamble, that would be the case today. So, slightly less preamble: to the story!

Chapter Seven

Whilst the Buggeram Bay was fighting to the last, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger struggled to find their way from the cave in which they had hidden the Tankerville Norris. Their unplanned route took them through a labyrinth of tunnels…

“Is it me,” Magnuss said, “or is it getting lighter?”

It was indeed getting lighter. Hair-Trigger could now see the strange objects attached to the cave walls. The squelching sound they had been making ever since the daring duo had disembarked their ship had had her conjuring up all sorts of ghastly images.

“Must be an exit nearby.” She said hopefully.

Moments later, after rounding one more turn, revealed the domed conurbation…

Beyond it, an alien saucer lay at rest upon the bare soil.

“Ah-ha.” Magnuss said with a slight cheer in his tone. “That looks suspiciously like our nemesis. How would you like to make a house visit? We might surprise them.”

For once, Hair-Trigger was unable to follow her husband’s thought processes. “Well I’d rather call Scroton, if you don’t mind: It was Nigel’s last command.”

“We’d give our presence away to the enemy.” Magnuss replied as he pressed his communicator to his ear and listened intently. “It might even precipitate an action against the planet. So far this bunch of evil scum are under the misapprehension that the Buggeram Bay attacked alone. In all the bangs and flashes, no one seemed to notice our little honeymoon barge. And all the time it remains hidden and silent, they’ll go on thinking that way. That gives us a tactical advantage. I can just hear Nigel and Beatrix mumbling incoherently, by the way. I think they’ve been captured. So, as you see, no one suspects we’re here. No one is looking for us. If we keep to the shadows, we’ve got the run of the place.”

Hair-Trigger comprehended with exactitude what her husband had just told her, but she still couldn’t understand what he hoped to achieve. She said as much. In response, Magnuss gave a knowing wink and patted his back pocket. It didn’t help. So she gave him a pleasant smile and followed his lead…

Soon they had covered the distance between the cave mouth and the conurbation. Stealthily they snuck between the domes. As night slowly descended upon the scene, the two earplugs ascended the slope that led to the first of the alien vessels. Before long they found themselves at a laundry access point in the hull…

Quickly they disappeared from sight inside it. However, gaining access to other sections of the vessel proved problematic, and Hair-Trigger was breathing through her mouth when they clambered from the garbage chute…

Shortly though their persistence and tenacity proved its worth. Magnuss cheered silently…

“I still don’t understand.” Hair-Trigger complained in a whisper. “So we’ve found the deuterium replenishment centre: what of it?”

“This ship is of a Scrotonic design.” Magnuss explained. “They have two engines: the star-drive or whatever you want to call the propulsion that carries the vessel across interstellar space: and one to get them off the ground and into orbit. We can’t nobble their star-drive; but we can put a monkey in the works of their lifting engine.” 

“We can?” Hair-Trigger said doubtfully.

“We can.” Magnuss replied with a smile. “Let’s get inside.”

Of course, there were no guards on the deuterium tanks. Why would there be? But nevertheless, Magnuss was feeling decidedly crestfallen when he saw the height of the deuterium tanks…

“Oh flip,” he swore viciously, “How are we gonna get up there?”

Hair-Trigger felt his pain. Her face fell. Also she didn’t have a clue regarding what Magnuss planned – even assuming they gained access to the tanks he so desired.

Magnuss became aware of his wife’s fear, doubts, and ignorance:

“Oh, sorry Hairy; I thought you’d figured it out. It’s the cane sugar that the Baristas fetched for Nigel’s coffee: it’s still in my back pocket – along with my Cossack hat. If we can introduce it to the tanks, the fuel will clog in the lines and the ship won’t fly.”

Enlightenment illuminated Hair-Trigger’s face with the glow of understanding. She said:

“Well obviously we’re looking in the wrong place. Cable Ends are the same size as us. Obviously the filler cap is going to be at cable end height. Let’s check that next compartment.”

So they did, and Hair-Trigger was proven correct…

“I guess we just flip up these lids.” She suggested.

Again she was proven correct…

…and just to make absolutely certain that this particular ship would fail horribly – not only did they sprinkle sugar in the filler hole, but Hair-Trigger hopped aboard and released the pressure in her bladder that had been building for hours.

“Neat.” Magnuss said proudly. “It’ll be my turn in the next ship: I’m dying for a wee.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

This is all well and good: but what’s happening to Nigel and Beatrix? Find out next time on Surprise Visit!

The Set: The Scene 6

Here’s another brief compilation of pictures that begin with a photo of a set, followed by a scene that was shot there, as seen in an Earplug Adventure. Obviously only extremely keen Earpluggers are going to recognise a scene, merely by looking at the set; but I’m certain that it won’t be utter tedium for those who can’t. And, who knows, you might surprise yourself.

First up, I’ve included (what was probably) the first ‘set’ that wasn’t really a set at all, but which got my imagination firing like a single cylinder four-stroke motorcycle of approximately 125cc. In this case it was some broken sheets of plasterboard (rock wall) that were awaiting disposal…

Look at the jagged edge of the torn cardboard. Such an interesting effect. What might that become? Well, in the case of the story Martian Interlude Part 2, it appeared as the rocky, wind-blown sea shore visited by Benjamin Booger and Plopper O’Hooligan…

Look at the grey-green waves and white spume crash against the haze-obscured rocks. Tell me it doesn’t look that way: go on. You can’t, can you!

Anyway, next up…

Interestingly shaped, cardboard cut-outs. They appear, over and over, as doorways in otherwise featureless ‘walls’. It took me an age to find this particular example in my library; but dedication to my art paid off, and I found this scene…

…which appears to be the front door of the apartment in which the siblings, Gray-Vee and Cray-Zee live. Or at least they did in the alternative reality story Evil Empire. It appeared at least once more…

…as a random doorway in Cometh the Earplug.

Sadly the next set / prop was left behind when I was forced out of my fabulous ‘studio’ when the company that owned it decided that building houses was more profitable that retaining an ancient, crumbling 1960’s architectural icon – the short-term-thinking shits. Anyway, enough of my gripes: it’s a pile of rock salt and the reflective interior of a streetlight…

The stuff that dreams are made of. In this case my dreams showed me this…

I know you recognise this: it’s the Future Museum of Mars. This time appearing – rather rain-soaked – in Haunted Mars. But the real beauty of this set is – it has an interior too! Here is the same reflector from Martian Interlude Part 1

…and again in Liberation Part 2

Here I’ve thrown in a temporary set. It appeared in a single tale, but made a cameo appearance in Surprise Visit...

Anyone? It’s the secret subterranean lair of the alien workforce that watch over the fledgling civilisation of Scroton. Here it is in The Masters of Scroton

Okay, that was a tricky one. I wouldn’t expect anyone to get that right. But what about this pair of singed plastic insulation panels and a screwed-up sheet of blue plastic…

Surely some interesting topography there. I had trouble finding any shots that clearly showed these sets as you see them here. Eventually I discovered this scene where shell-shocked scientists stagger about their ruined world in Distant land

Destruction is on the cards again in this composite I made that is supposed to be a missile in flight above the ice sheet in Haunted Mars Part 2

But I stuck at my task, and finally found this defining shot. It comes from The Epoch of Dung

Look at that: you can even see the sheet of blue plastic through the burn hole. A lake, perhaps? There is no ‘perhaps’ about it. I’m a great believer in realism: that’s why I populate my stories with earplugs!

 

Surprise Visit (part 18)

The element of surprise greatly assisted our intrepid heroes in Part 17. Now check out what happens when that element is lost. Oooh…

Success, however, was short-lived. Within moments of the enemy regaining their wits, a defensive screen encapsulated the domed conurbation…

The situation worsened further. As Magnuss and Hair-Trigger appeared on the main viewer of the Buggeram Bay

…they received the news that the Scrotonic ship was receiving return fire, and that their screens were depleting quickly.

“We’re hopelessly out-gunned,” Nigel shouted above the din of his bridge exploding. “We’ll go down fighting: you find yourselves somewhere to run and hide. Most importantly, get a message to Scroton. Tell them everything you know!”

The two heroic earplugs could only watch in horror as smoke obscured the view…

“Will do.” Magnuss said quietly. Then he had a thought: “Leave your personal communication devices on ‘send’: that way we’ll be able to hear what’s going on. We might even find a way of helping you.”

“Will do – too.” Nigel responded. “I’ll just leave mine on: you don’t want all of us chattering on and confusing the heck out of you. May the Saint of All Earplugs fly with you.”

“And may the Saint of All Earplugs protect you.” Hair-Trigger added.

A moment later communications failed utterly. Aboard the Tankerville Norris, it was all the crew could do to sit in stunned silence…

Fortunately for them both, the ship’s AI didn’t do ‘stunned’: instead it took off in a headlong flight from the battle; disappeared behind some nearby mountains; and made straight for a welcoming cave mouth…

…in which to hide the entire ship.

The Buggeram Bay, meanwhile, had gone into a terminal dive…

The fight, it seemed, was over. However, the Scrotonic flagship’s multi-redundancies allowed the flaming wreck to make some sort of landing upon a rock shelf a short distance from the habitat domes…

As it went into its fiery death throes, Nigel and his retinue staggered from the wreck and made their uncertain way down the slope towards the waiting cable ends…

A blue individual, sporting an orange plume, watched dispassionately from a safe distance.

“Have the Golden One brought to me,” he hissed to the grey cable end beside him, “Him and his dippy wife.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Not looking too good right now, huh? But, never fear, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger remain free and unsuspected. Tune in again to find out how they best utilize that advantage. It might even be what you expected!

The Set: The Scene 5

It has been a while since the last The Set: The Scene – mainly because I forgot all about the series in which I show you the set, then follow it with an Earplug Adventure scene that was shot there. Of course only long-term Earpluggers will have any chance of recalling the earlier tales (which, by today’s standards appear a tad primitive), but if I don’t use too many of them, I’m sure recent recruits will enjoy this too. So to the game…

We kick off with a pallet of double glazed units, which are separated by some natty cardboard…ah..separators

When I snapped this picture, it made a work colleague chuckle. He knew exactly why I’d taken it, but had no idea what I would make of it. I made the high-rise buildings of La Ciudad de Droxford (and others)…

…which appeared at the beginning of Triple Threat.

Before I had the technical ability to extract elements from my photos; then superimpose them on to existing backgrounds, I was forced to shoot my spaceships in front of a monitor screen…

It wasn’t ideal, and it was a bit hit and miss. But when it worked, it worked rather well, I think…

In this case the disabled Gravity Whelk explodes a proton torpedo in it’s main thruster to gain forward momentum, in Haunted Mars.

Ah, one of my better (and permanent) sets. An ancient portable DVD player in a plastic box. This enabled me to show scenes on the screen, without the need to superimpose, which meant faster shooting and multiple angle potential…

Of course the ‘deck’ of the set needed adding afterwards, which was a bit of an arse-wipe because the DVD remote wouldn’t operate the machine through the cardboard…

This meant that every time I took a shot, I needed to move the deck to press the play button – causing the ‘actors’ to often fall over. I only used this set in A Tale of Three Museums. Here’s how it turned out – as the bridge of three separate Scroton Five ships. Here’s the main character’s ship – the Zephyr…

I added another section for the reverse angle shots…

Here it appears as the mercenary’s ship…

…and finally as the Scrotonic interceptor ship that pursued the Zephyr throughout the tale…

Not exactly a much-loved set; but a very ubiquitous one. Right now it’s sitting in my attic ‘studio’, just waiting to be pulled out of mothballs and used again.

Photos and Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan.

 

Surprise Visit (part 17)

Here we go – headed towards the final showdown. Hold on to your buttocks!

Chapter Six

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the SRR conduit…

…the Tankerville Norris and Buggeram Bay had emerged into a dark brown atmosphere. Magnuss wanted nothing more than to call up Nigel and say, “Look familiar? It’s the brown world in Weird Space!” However he thought it best to maintain radio silence. Then, to his annoyance, interference rendered the main viewer useless…

“Oh, flipping heck, Hairy.” He growled, “Just when we really need to see where we’re going too!”

The ship’s computer couldn’t help either. Both earplugs received telepathic messages simultaneously: “Help, I’m blind. Someone tell me where to go!”

The situation wasn’t any better aboard the ship of Scroton…

“Can someone override that interference?” Nigel half inquired – half demanded.

“Working on it.” Faati – Queen of the Pygmies – replied.

“Further,” Nigel continued, “once having replaced all that ziggy-zaggy line stuff, might it be possible to use our AI’s telepathic talents to tell the Tankerville Norris’s AI how to fix the picture?”

“Hey,” Faati responded with a chuckle in her voice, “We’ve got two ships built on Scroton here: anything is possible!”

Satisfied with the response to his suggestions, Nigel thought of one more:

“Right – let’s get the right way up again. These magnetic boots are playing merry hell with my delicate ankles.”

Below, upon the surface, an Ethernet Cable End didn’t even look up as the Buggeram Bay passed above a series of habitat domes…

Whether it was the act of reverting to standard flight mode, or just chance timing, the screen reactivated – just as they passed the outer edge of the domed conurbation…

Seven mouths fell open. Only one worked sufficiently well to form coherent words. It belonged to Nigel:

“Ethernet cable ends? How the flip? What the heck? Duh? Someone pinch me, I’m having some sort of hallucinatory attack!”

Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were almost as shocked, though on a far less visceral level…

“Oh,” Magnuss whimpered, “the guys over there aren’t going to like this. This must mean that there is a secret faction of Scroton that’s opposed to the current social and political situation – and possibly Nigel himself.”

Hair-Trigger however had made an observation that might have been missed by anyone else. “I’m not so sure about that, Mags.” She said as her eyes widened, then squinted intensely. “Look at those cable ends closely: there’s something odd about them.”

“Do they have their bums on back-to-front?” Magnuss asked as he peered semi-myopically.

“No-no,” Hair-Trigger replied, “Nothing so obvious. When we get the chance, I’d like to take a closer look.”

Magnuss might have suggested a different physical abnormality in the ground-based ethernet cable end; but his attention was snatched away by the sight of a dark saucer making a landing approach…

“Look, Hairy – it’s one of those ships that destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford!”

“Let’s enact some revenge, eh?” Hair-Trigger replied.

Magnuss was all for it. He would have called Nigel to suggest that very thing, but before he was able to depress the ‘send’ button, the Golden One’s voice boomed over the intercom:

“Attack! Attack! Blow the evil swine to kingdom come!”

The instruction was explicit: neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger wasted a second responding…

Blam – both ship’s primary weapons hit the alien vessel with all their might. Defensive shields collapsed like cling film in a pizza oven. The ship’s main core erupted in flame and released energy…

Before the occupants knew what had happened, they were hurtling through the air in their own personal escape bubbles…

…their ship reduced to a roiling maelstrom of flame and smoke. Moreover it was the exact duplicate of the window, through which Nigel had spotted Don Quibonki and Panta Lonez (when they had first touched down upon the soil of Earth) that the Tankerville Norris passed over in a victory roll…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so we have alien ass-kicking. But it couldn’t be that easy, surely? Tune in again next time to find out!

Surprise Visit (part 16)

It could be that Surprise Visit is a little lack luster; or maybe Summer isn’t the best time to post stuff on the Internet; but, it seems to me, that this tale isn’t going down too well with the majority of my readers. Or, to put it another way, it appears that they are being turned off in their droves. So it occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea if I released the full PDF e-book now, rather than at the serial’s end. I will ruminate upon this. Meanwhile, for those who are diligently following the story (thank you), here is Part Sixteen…

Of course, the news spread throughout the museum like a wildfire. Almost instantaneously the Earplug Brothers convened…

The eldest brother, Rudi, spoke first:

“Okay,” he said, “we’re on the case. If there aint no fleet to protect the museum, we’re gonna have to go find the miscreants before they come visiting us again. Yo? Can you dig it?”

“Sho’nuf, bro.” The second oldest, Valentine replied without hesitation.

“Count us in.” The twins, Chester and Miles added a nanosecond later.

“I have a reputation to protect.” Magnuss said with a smile. “And a darned good ship in the Tankerville Norris. I’m game.”

A short while later, four of the five brothers had prepared themselves for the ordeal ahead and now posed for publicity shots…

Naturally, Magnuss had gone straight to Nigel, who, having taken the longest tinkle of his life, had conjured up a half-assed plan. Like the news of earlier, Nigel’s plan also swept through the museum – not so much as a wildfire; but more like a pedestal fan with the speed dial set on number three. It was enough to blow in the direction of K’Plank the Space Wanderer, who chose the arboretum in which to break the news to Auntie Doris that he had volunteered.

“Ugh?” Doris responded – her usual smile having fallen away like dead leaves in autumn – “But you have no armament. What good can you do? You’ll just get yourself killed – and with no effect. K’Plank, be logical: let someone else do it.”

“I can flit around and draw enemy fire from the other ships.” K’Plank replied heroically. “And it’s not like I’m totally unarmed. I bought several boxes of stink bombs from a schoolboy on Deneb Four. I couldn’t find a buyer for them here, so they’re just surplus stock. The acidic stench might even incapacitate enemy sensors and play havoc with their sinuses. Anything is worth a try. I must do my bit to protect you and the place you call home. It’s what any decent space wanderer would do!”

Doris didn’t know it, of course, but three of her nephews had already launched aboard the museum’s scientific Flying Saucer…

When the time came for K’Plank to join them, she (and several watchers in the balconies of the Grand hall) was there to wave him bon voyage…

Only moments later, Valentine had the Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher streaking skyward…

As the Earplug Brothers climbed above the clouds, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger aboard the Tankerville Norris joined them…

Then, as one, the four museum vessels formed up behind the Buggeram Bay…

Even at the modest speed that the Scrotonite ship’s AI chose to carry them in the direction of the sea, just off the sewage outfall, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the view of an alien Spatial Relocation Ring to hove into view…

“Don’t tell me, Walker,” Nigel said as he eyed the impressively massive device that could clearly hover with apparent ease above the azure waters, “we have one of these on the drawing board.”

Walker was slow to respond. After several seconds and an elbow in the kidneys from Beatrix, he replied:

“You signed the financial authorisation last week. The designer’s argument for it was that a ship didn’t need to traverse space, hyperspace, wormholes, transit conduits, or any of that old guff, to get anywhere. We would just send one of these, then simply enter its facsimile on Scroton, and be – ah, here, for example – in the blink of an eye. Ships wouldn’t even need to make orbit. In fact you wouldn’t need space ships at all: just aircraft.”

“I thought it looked familiar.” Nigel all but mused to himself. To Walker he said:

“So we’ve been beaten to the punch yet again. Someone has very good spies on Scroton. But, tell me, who could possibly pass as a cable end – for certainly no cable end that ever drew breath on Scroton would work against their planet’s best interest. I’m completely mystified.”

Julian Prim coughed discretely. “Golden One,” he said, “if your ingenious plan is to succeed, we must invert the Buggeram Bay, and envelope our partner’s ships in cloaks that make them appear as we do.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.” Nigel replied. “It’s very important that the ring recognises us as bona fide alien vessels. If we can pass ourselves off as such, it will probably open and allow us egress from this planet, and ingress to the planet at the other end. Go for it!”

A moment later…

…five ships approached the mysterious Spatial Relocation Ring. Timing could have been better because Nigel’s bladder chose that moment to remind him that he shouldn’t have consumed three glasses of cream soda and a Bloody Mary before departure…

“Why have you two joined me?” He demanded of Walker and Bertram.

“Support, Sir.” Bertram replied. “Both spiritual and physical.”

“We don’t want you falling up the toilet, Sir.” Walker added.

After a difficult visit to the loo, finding their way back to the bridge was kid’s stuff. Once settled into his chair, Nigel noticed an incongruity:

“With the ship inverted, why is the screen the right way up? It boggles my eyes.”

“Something to do with the refresh rate of the HD screen, Sir.” Fermin answered Nigel. “It gets all wobbly if it’s turned upside down.”

“So it’s not my blood rushing to the top of my head?” Beatrix inquired.

“Could be, Ma’am.” Fermin replied. “I wouldn’t discount any possibility. Oh, no more time for idle chat: here we go!”

Initially, it appeared that Nigel’s plan was…uh…going to plan: but when the Buggeram Bay and the Tankerville Norris entered the event horizon simultaneously…

…the Spatial Relocation Ring responded in a most violent manner – snapping shut and barring the way for K’Plank and the Earplug Brothers. All three vessels wheeled away in near panic…

Aboard the Flying Saucer, Rudi could barely believe his eyes…

Chester and Miles looked away in fear that they had lost their youngest brother.

“It’s okay, guys,” Rudi called out. “The Tankerville Norris and the Buggeram Bay made it through!”

However it wasn’t all good news. Their sensors had detected a rocky island directly beneath the SRR.

“Look, bros, it even has a Café Puke outlet.” Rudi cried out in glee. “Let’s go drown our sorrows in a ghastly mug of brown muck!”

Valentine had spotted it too. Without hesitation he ‘zoomed’ down to take a better view…

“Yup,” he radioed the boys and K’Plank, “it’s sho’nuf open, and it’s happy hour!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a truly international extract – with ‘real’ backdrops coming from England, France, and Spain. I certainly get out and about shooting the Earplug Adventures!

Surprise Visit (part 15)

It’s hard to believe, I know, but we’re only three and a half chapters from the end of the tale. The good news is – the PDF version is complete and only awaits the completion of the on-line telling of this Earplug Adventure before becoming available for all to read or download, in its entirety, free of charge and utterly gratis. It will look exactly like this…

 

But enough of the future: on with the present…

Meanwhile, the proper leader of Scroton scurried along one of many thoroughfares that radiated, like a spider’s web, through the Museum of Future Technology. As he made good speed for a meeting with the chief curator, Cushions Smethwyke, his retinue followed in his wake…

“You need to be fit.” Walker observed as his eyes took in any number of side passageways and corridors. “It seems that to get anywhere, an inordinate amount of shoe leather must be worn down.”

“Walking is good for you.” Beatrix admonished the military leader of Scroton.

“One could get awfully lost.” The red-faced Julian Prim said between gasps.

“Not really.” Beatrix replied. “One need only ask the museum’s Artificial Intelligence for guidance. If it’s not too busy doing other stuff, it will tell you where you are; where you want to be; and how to get there. How else do you think Nigel knows where he’s going?”

Shortly, having rounded just a couple more junctions, Nigel presented himself and Beatrix to Cushions, who had Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks for company upon her ‘throne’…

“Oh, Golden One,” Cushions gushed obsequiously, “I’m so honoured that it takes every erg of my energy to maintain mental and physical equilibrium and not fall off this huge contraption!

“Hi,” Cheerful Charlie added with a wave over Cushions’ shoulder, “you’ve just missed jelly and cream, sorry. Would you like me to send out for you?”

The behaviour of the two trained, long-term professional curators nonplussed Nigel slightly. “Ah, not for the moment, thank you.” He replied to Cheerful Charlie. To Cushions he said: “Miss Smethwyke, we must discuss the most dreadful situation that currently threatens, not only the Museum of Future Technology and, by extension, my home world; but, ultimately many civilisations across the cosmos.”

It was Cushions’ turn to be taken aback. “Yeah?” She managed. “I thought it was just us who were up Kaka Creek without a paddle.”

“Then Magnuss hasn’t told you?” A mystified Beatrix interjected.

It was time for Cushions to come clean: “He might have.” She answered, “But after the first couple of sentences, I kinda went into panic-denial. What was it, specifically?”

“That the attacking ships are of Scrotonic design.” Nigel answered for his wife. “That they utilise the latest technology to which even I am not privy.”

Cushions’ mouth opened and shut several times before her brain caught up. “You mean,” she was finally able to annunciate, “that we’re being bullied by ethernet cable ends? I can’t believe it. It’s too much for my silicon mind to accept. Surely no cable end would destroy an entire city, just to prove how powerful they were – would they?” 

Nigel dismissed the notion with a careless gesture. “No.” He replied adamantly. “No cable end would ever do that. It runs contrary to all our beliefs. But we must consider the possibility that another race – as adept at manufacturing hi-tech equipment at speed and in volume as we of Scroton – has purloined our designs and now uses them for their own advantage.”

“Oh, good.” Cushions responded. “So what do you want us to do? All our ships are half-way across the Galaxy, doing all that exploration and diplomatic stuff. We can’t call upon them. In any case, if those ships are half as good as you say, our old bangers might get blown to pieces!”

“We ask only one thing of you.” Nigel replied. “By whatever means, you must not allow them to defeat you. You must not surrender. I have ordered a fleet of similar ships built. Ships that fly the right way up, I might add. The first elements will arrive here by the end of the week. The remainder are due at approximately the same time that the aliens return for your answer to their ultimatum.”

“Excellent.” Cheerful Charlie piped up. “We’ll make sure we have plenty of jelly and cream in.”

Nigel ignored the resident buffoon. To Cushions he said: “Is there anything you require in between times?”   

“Power.” Cushions replied. “Energy. Our batteries are depleting too quickly. We have a manually operated charger, but no one has sufficient leg strength or endurance to operate it.”

“Leave it to us.” Beatrix replied.

Five hours later…

“Can you see the power level read-out, Faati?” Fermin asked the Queen of the Pygmies.

“Yes.” Faati snapped back.

“How much longer do we have to keep doing this before the batteries are fully charged?” Fermin inquired.

“Long enough,” Faati answered, “to prove your boast to Walker that you can run and run and run without the need to sit down for an hour afterwards.”

Five hours later…

…the museum’s maintenance crew informed the exhausted cable ends that they could prise themselves off the charging machine and allow themselves to be carried to a hot soapy bath to recover.

However, a minute later, but half way across the Galaxy, Phruten Vedge was on the brink of entering a public lavatory, when Anders Dumbell unceremoniously accosted him…

“Phruten! Phruten!” He yelled and tugged at the biker gang leader’s shoulder epaulettes. “Something unthinkable has happened. Something that, under normal circumstances I would say was impossible on Scroton. But, look at the wall screen over there: the one showing the state-run rolling news channel.”

Phruten did as he was bid…

“Argh,” he yelled, “What am I looking at?”

“A fire-storm.” Anders wailed his reply. “It has destroyed the space ship factory. No one knows how it happened: but the Bingbonger, the Clutterbuck, the Plankton Regis, and another one that doesn’t have a name yet, have all been destroyed!”

“This is terrible.” Phruten yelled at a higher pitch than was normally acceptable for such a tough guy. “I’m so glad I’m standing directly outside a toilet right now!”

But just when both cable ends thought that the situation could not worsen farther, the screen switched to another view…

The voice of a reporter followed immediately. It said:

“Holy carp: did you see that? Two missiles have taken out the lemon curd factory! Oh-no, this is disastrous; they were using the surplus manufacturing capacity of the lemon curd factory to produce the extra vessels for The Golden One’s space fleet! Everything has gone up in smoke. This is the worst day in cable end history. Someone hand me a café Cortado – heavy on the brandy!”

However even this was not the final act of infamy. Another screen displayed the image of the space ship design studio in flames…

“Cripes, Anders,” Phruten spoke in a hushed tone, lest his voice break with sorrow and fear, “arson, obviously. Who is going to tell The Golden One?”

The answer flew daintily to Anders’ lips: “Ena.” He replied.

By the strangest of coincidences, Nigel received the news of his proto-fleet’s destruction at the same moment that he planned to enter the Buggeram Bay’s toilet…

“I’m not sure I can accept that.” He said quietly to Walker. “I don’t have an appropriate response.”

“Give it a few minutes to sink in, Sir.” Bertram Hisscod suggested. “Allow yourself the chance to absorb the information slowly.”

“Yes, thank you, Bertram.” Nigel said gratefully, as he turned to enter the toilet…

…”If I have a really long wee, it’ll give me time to compose myself. I just hope that in my moment of despair I don’t lose control and miss the urinal entirely.”

“Best make it a sit down job then, Sir.” Walker said as he made to follow his leader. “I’m sure Bertram will hustle you up a cup of tea.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

You have to feel sympathy for poor old Nigel: he has to contend with so much. Perhaps he should do as he suggested at the beginning of the adventure. That is quit and go live in a cave. 

Surprise Visit (part 14)

Response to Part 13 was a tad muted. Perhaps Part 14 will be more to your liking. Here goes…

It was bright outside – whereas the interior enjoyed a cloak of shade. They didn’t know it, of course, but their guests had made a decision, and were preparing to leave…

It was only when their eyes adjusted to the gloom that the Baristas realised that they had arrived too late…

“Oh, my apologies.” Nigel said when he spotted his ungracious hosts…

…but we won’t be requiring the sugar now. Um, perhaps you can sprinkle it on some doughnuts or something. We need to be moving on. By-ee.”

However, as they left, Magnuss – never one to waste anything, especially when people had gone to such lengths to accomplish something so trivial – took the sachets and (along with his Cossack hat) poked them inside his back pocket. “Thank you.” He said. “I’ll be writing to your manager: you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.”

Moyst ran straight to the lavatory to wash the smell of plugmutt pee off her hands. But Jungle-Jake and Mary-Sue, both of whom were far less fastidious in their hygiene, merely watched their guests depart  –  to be replaced by alternative clientele – such as a vacationing Ice-Worlder, Uda Spritzer, and the morose Poncho Warmonger – eager to sample their vile wares…

“Huh,” Jungle-Jake grunted, “and they didn’t even leave a tip on the table. Cheapskates!”

Chapter Five

Far, far away, upon the planet Scroton, part-time government officials, Phruten Vedge, Ena Large, and Anders Dumbell were returning to the council chambers following a short break for mince pies and custard…

Phruten’s mind was on nothing in particular. His eyes wandered the anteroom without really seeing anything. Ena and Anders, conversely, had very important matters troubling them. Both had consumed far more mince pies than was recommended by the state-run organisation Be Kind to Your Guts, and were experiencing a sensation that suggested that their bowels would soon explode. Both tried crossing and uncrossing their eyes many times in an attempt to ward off the inevitable. They were still doing so, when a pair of Civil Service officers approached at speed…

Quickly regaining his awareness, Phruten turned to face them. Ena made a pretty good fist of looking interested too. But poor Anders spent the following moments trying to release the internal pressure by emitting copious amounts of gas and praying that it vented naturally through the open portal to his right. So he didn’t hear the Civil Service officers inform Phruten and Ena that a message had arrived from Earth.

“It’s The Golden One!” The grey cable end yelled. “He’s sent a message for you.”

“You have to act upon it.” The purple cable end yelled even louder – bordering on shrill. “This is not the time for conservatism. No more maintaining the status quo. You must act.”

“And act with alacrity, determination, and forthrightness.” The grey cable end continued. “Contrary to what Beatrix said in the council chambers before they went on vacation: make waves!”

“But what is it?” An increasingly nervous Phruten demanded. “What is it we must do?”

“Sign the authorisation.” The purple cable end half explained.

The grey cable end completed the explanation:

“To complete all of the new space ships by the end of the week, and begin constructing a further fifteen – to be completed in seven days. No expenses spared. Twenty-four hour operation. Overtime at double pay. These ships must be ready for battle within thirteen days, fully crewed, and on-site in Earth orbit with armament primed and ready for action.”

Anders heard this. For a moment it required all of his intellect to understand the significance of the instruction. Consequently, he had nothing in reserve, which meant that his iron control slipped and his bottom erupted so violently that everyone were sent scurrying from the anteroom by the subsequent gale of moist particles…

“Let’s go.” He shouted. “Let’s get this Executive Order signed!”

“Then,” he added in a mournful wail, “someone hand me the key to the Executive Toilet. Damn those mince pies!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, you see there – I’m on safer ground. Blowing off.

Surprise Visit (part 13)

Are you enjoying Surprise Visit? If so, please leave a comment in the ‘comment’ box. It should go something like this: “Yo, Tooty, what a groove.” or “Hey, man – I can dig it!” Or something similar – such as “Divine, darling!” or “Absolute bloody genius.” Or, “I nearly wet my pants, it’s so good.” The choice is yours. Now on to the next extract…

Meanwhile, in the arboretum Café Puke franchise…

…the heroic earplug duo and their allies from Scroton were still in deep conversation. Outside – shooting in through a window in the back wall – Rupert Piles caught everything upon his mighty TV camera…

“This is good.” He said to himself. “I’ll be able to stretch this into a two-part docudrama. I might even win an award for it. Heaven knows I’m overdue one. Let’s hope no one gets the drop on me, like the aliens did on Nigel and his gang.”

Whilst important discussions were taking place in one Café Puke outlet; in another, which happened to be located at the edge of the nearby Wide Blue Yonder…

…a surprised pair of Baristas were…ugh…surprised to see Jungle-Jake lead Mary-Sue and Moyst into their workplace.

“Hey,” the taller of the two Baristas – both of whom were cleaning spilt coffee from a table near the back – cried, “what are you guys doing here? Has your café burned down, fallen foul of the Health and Safety Executive, or something?”

“Or have you been fired for rudeness and overt gum chewing?” The shorter earplug inquired.

Mary-Sue explained.

“I smelt some sugar cane.” Jungle-Jake added. “The pong led us here.”

“Oh yeah,” the first Barista said as comprehension dawned. “We had a load of sugar cane crystals in sachets: but no one bothers with the real thing, not when they can have nice white refined sugar. It was past its sell-by date. We’ve been burning it in an incinerator out the back.”

“If you wanna look around out there,” the second Barista said helpfully,” you might find a few sachets on the ground. We were having fun flicking  ’em at each other, and we couldn’t be bothered to pick them up. But, watch it, people take their plugmutts ‘round there to have a pee, so they might smell a bit iffy.”

Meanwhile the autofocus of Rupert’s camera found it difficult to see clearly through the futuristically pseudo-opaque glass in one of the café’s side windows…

More fortunately, the microphone experienced no difficulty picking up what the occupants of the café were saying to each other.

“Let me get this right.” Nigel was saying to Magnuss. “You never actually saw the aliens: they spoke through a vocoder-like apparatus, so you have no idea what they really sound like; they destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford as a demonstration of their power; they want your unconditional surrender; and they’ve given you two weeks to make your decision – and left you to think it over?”

Magnuss was happy with that summation. Then he thought of something else:

“Oh yes, they also left a huge ovoid ring. It’s hanging in the air, over the sea, just off the coast, near the sewage outlet. It’s heavily armed, has multiple layers of electro-magnetic defensive screening, and is the means by which the semi-fleet departed this region of space.”

Beatrix picked up on one of Magnuss’ terms: “Semi-fleet?” She inquired. “Might an alternative nomenclature for a small number of armed invasion ships be termed a ‘flotilla’?”

Magnuss thought about it for a second. “Yes, I guess it would.” He answered. “Yes, the ovoid ring was the means by which the flotilla departed this region of space.”   

Beatrix turned to her husband. “There, I told you so – when we blew up that shape-shifting sausage roll: there is a flotilla of our latest ship out there – and it’s kicking ass!”

Nigel didn’t need to be reminded. All his fears were taking on corporeal form. “Do we know where they went to?” He asked Magnuss. “You know, when they left via the ovoid ring?”

Magnuss fetched out his cell phone. He spoke as he did so. “We sent a drone in after the…flotilla. Before we lost contact with it, the drone sent this back.”  Quickly searching through its library of images with deft movements of his pinky-orange fingers, he produced this…

A collective gasp escaped the seven sets of Scrotonic lungs. “Weird Space!” The seven owners of the seven sets of lungs exclaimed in a hushed tone.

“Recognise the planet?” Magnuss inquired. “It’s brown all over, with no surface water.”

No one did: but Julian noticed something pertinent:

“It has an aura.” He said. “A glow, if you will. It could indicate a substantial cloaking facility. Large enough to hide the entire world, maybe. You said that their ships evaded your sensors? Perhaps this world is evading Scroton’s.”

Nigel’s fears doubled at these words. “You mean that there is a hidden planet in Weird Space that we don’t know about – that has a capacity to develop technology as well or better than we can? If I had any pants on, I’d probably be pooping in them as we speak”

Beatrix looked at Nigel. “You don’t have any pants on?” She inquired quietly.

“Forgot to pack any.” Nigel explained. “That’s why I chose the kilt. But enough of my wardrobe disaster: We need to act – and act decisively. “

Talking of acting decisively, in the Wide Blue Yonder Café Puke, Moyst, Jungle-Jack, and Mary-Sue had thanked the Baristas for their help, and were leaving the café – their pockets burgeoning with vaguely unpleasant-smelling sachets of unprocessed cane sugar…

So, the difficult facet of their task completed, now it was merely a matter of retracing their steps back to the arboretum; past the bamboo plantation…

…and finally to the café where Nigel, presumably, awaited his sugar…

“Pity we couldn’t find a mortar and pestle.” Jungle-Jake lamented quietly.

“That’s old tech.” Moyst snorted derisively behind him. “No one can expect a Barista to find ancient stuff in the Museum of Future Technology. I mean – it’s counter intuitive, aint it!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Right then, now it’s time for you to do your bit. Comment. Comment. Comment!

 

Surprise Visit (part 10): An Earplug Adventure

Into double figures. These extracts just keep coming. At least they will do all the time you want to read them. Thank you for that, by the way. Without readers, what would be the point of writing these tales? Especially since I do so enjoy doing it. Keep up the good work. Tell your friends. Let’s spread the word. Enjoy Part Ten…

Five minutes later Magnuss and Hair-Trigger stood upon the truncated Wide Blue Yonder, pressed up against their visitors…

“Sorry about this,” Magnuss said, “but we don’t want the aliens to detect our use of the matter transmitter. We’re using just one to carry all nine of us. Squash up. Squash up!”

Moments later…

…multiple flashes lit up the fake surroundings. A split second later, multiple flashes did likewise in a subterranean bunker beneath the real Museum of Future Technology…

“Okay everybody,” Magnuss said after everyone had felt themselves from head to toe, “let’s go!”

And, boy, didn’t they go! Magnuss set a blistering pace…

So fast that he and Hair-Trigger were soon gasping for air…

…and poor little Faati – the Queen of the Pygmies – was in danger of being left behind. But what she lacked in outright speed, she more than made up for in stamina. So by the time the flagging forerunners had reached the sole exterior viewing window, she had caught up…

“You gotta run really fast to lose a pygmy.” One of the earplug engineers present on the shop floor below said. “I always bet on them in a marathon.”

“Me too.” Another replied. “I bought my apartment with the winnings.”

Naturally, Nigel was more than interested in the alien saucers. Already an idea was forming in his illustrious head. “Can we go somewhere quiet where you can show me images of these alien swine?” He asked, yet managed to make it a command.

“Sure.” Magnuss replied. “I was rather hoping you’d say that. Just follow the signs.”

“Are you sure you want to take them to a Café Puke?” An uncertain Hair-Trigger asked of her husband…

“Can you think of a better place?” He responded. “The coffee is crap, but the ambiance can’t be equalled – especially with their latest Fifties Diner décor.”

At that moment, a short distance away, in the arboretum Café Puke…

…three Baristas awaited their next customer. It had been a quiet start to the morning, and thus far clientele had only occupied a few tables…

“Oi, can we really afford to keep that air-con running?” The pink female, Mary-Sue Wassack, said to the others. “And I don’t mean that in a fiscal sense: the museum is running on battery power you know. Okay, they’re very futuristic batteries, but they don’t last forever. Then this job’ll get really hard and sweaty. I do don’t hard and sweating – not unless I’m down the disco with a can of lager in my hand.”

One of the others – possibly the sole male Barista, Jungle-Jake Johnson –  might have argued that if they turned up the heat, what few customers they had would leave. However all three Barista’s attention was soon drawn to a face at the door…

“Ah-ha,” they heard Magnuss say cheerfully. “Stay right there. Don’t shut up shop, and don’t turn off the air-con: you’ve got V.I.Ps incoming.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

PS The cover to the free PDF e-book version is ready. It looks like this…

Judging from the cover image, that looks like a surprise visit we’d all like to avoid. Next time phone before you arrive: we can make sure we’re out!

Surprise Visit (part 8): An Earplug Adventure

When I wrote the introduction to part 8 of Surprise Visit, I was pleased to announce that photography had ended – with 229 shots completed for the photo-story. Well I was a tad premature. I should have realised that there was no way on Earth I was going to keep to my script. As the written tale progressed, I was getting little side-ideas. Scenes that improved the story. So, guess what: it was time to clamber back up into the attic studio and shoot some more. The total is now up to 238. Would anyone bet against it rising higher? Anyway, here’s the latest extract…

It led to the arboretum…

“Hah!” Nigel scoffed. “I’d always believed that the arboretum was vast and filled with all sorts of wonderful plants and trees from all the different ages of Earplugdom. But look at that: it’s a travesty.”

Naturally, their hearts sinking to new lows, Nigel and Beatrix turned away from the distressing scene…

In doing so, they failed to notice a yellow eye open in the flowerbed. And, when they were out of sight the same flower bed reared up to reveal itself as Susan – the amorphous blob from the Age of Stone exhibit…

“This is terrible.” She wailed. “Nigel, the Golden One, has lost his faith in earplugs and the Museum of Future Technology. I must warn Magnuss!”

Chapter Three

Meanwhile, the head of the military joined a disconsolate Nigel and Beatrix…

He too looked sad and beaten. When they spoke, it became clear that he had drawn the same conclusions. “Well they certainly pulled the wool over my eyes.” He grumbled. “I bet all this subterranean concrete is really modelling plaster painted with grey pre-school safety paint.”

Although Nigel believed what he believed, there was still a nagging doubt smouldering within his soul. He prayed for any sign that he was wrong about the earplugs. He got that sign…

“What was that? All three cable ends yelled in unison. “The flash of a matter transference device in operation?”

Seconds later there was no doubt…

Nigel, Beatrix, and Walker raced to greet their favourite earplugs.

“Hiya, guys.” Magnuss called as they approached at breakneck speed.

“Sorry about all this.” Hair-Trigger added as she shrugged and indicated their immediate surroundings. “But it was necessary.”

The married couple then proceeded to explain the situation to their unexpected guests…

“It’s been awful.” Magnuss said as he spat out imaginary bile.

“It still is.” Hair-Trigger added mournfully.

“It’s like this,” Magnuss continued, “a couple of days ago Hair-Trigger and I were followed through a hyperspace conduit by a huge alien ship, with a bunch of smaller ones riding shotgun…

We thought we’d shaken them off by diving through a multiphasic wormhole that the Tankerville Norris conjured up out of the local interstellar material. But we hadn’t. Oh-no. However, just to be sure about the museum’s continued safety, we raised the Chameleon Cannon…

…which, when activated, placed a bubble of nul-space around the museum. It effectively took us out of the normal space/time continuum and hid us from view.”

“It was as well we did.” Hair-Trigger said as she screwed up her nose.

“Why, Magnuss?” Nigel implored. “What’s afoot?”

“I’ll get to that.” Magnuss replied; then continued his tale: “We sent the RoboSecGuas to secure the perimeter. No one could enter, and no one could leave. We were in total lock-down…

Then things began to happen that went beyond our control. First, the lights went all funny…

Then they went out…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Don’t forget to return to hear more from Magnuss and Hair-Trigger about what happened previously. It’s a tale of true horror!

Tooty the Chef’s Quick Tip: Sell-By Date Due

You’ve noticed that a packet of sauce in your cupboard is in danger of becoming obsolete overnight: whatta ya do? If you’re anything like Tooty the Chef, you’ll smile with eagerness…

…coz that means you can use up that freezer-burnt fish in the bottom drawer, and those floppy veggies in the fridge…

In this case Il Maestro placed some equally ancient American long grain rice in the  rice cooker…

…and steamed the rest  on top.  Then, following the customary ‘ding’ from the rice cooker to indicate that it had done it’s thing, it was simply a case of mixing up the fish sauce with milk; boiling it stupid; then pouring it over the rice / veggies / fish combo. The result? Well the result was so good that it got eaten before the camera came out of the bag!

PS If you don’t have a rice cooker – get one!

Surprise Visit (part 7): An Earplug Adventure

The thing with these Earplug Adventures is…the preliminary work  takes so long that when it comes to the actual writing of the story, it all seems to pass by in a flash. I don’t get to enjoy the pleasure of creating my little alternative reality for as long as I’d like. I’d compare it  with sex, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate: my long-term memory is failing me right now. These short stories are even worse of course –  or better, depending on your point of view. They don’t drag on like…for example A Tale of Three Museums, though, of course that is a silicon masterpiece that should never be denigrated. But back to the present: Part Seven already: I can hardly believe it. Oh well,  on  with it then…

Elsewhere, Fermin had joined Julian upon an approximation of the Wide Blue Yonder…

“What do you think, Fermin?” The political attaché inquired of the super soldier.

“The fabric is fine.” Fermin replied. “There’s just not enough of it. Over there, the futuristic concrete floor’s been painted blue.”

In a moment of inspiration, Nigel suggested that he and Beatrix visit the very top of the Red Tower, and go outside on to the roof.

“We can see the whole place from up there.” He said. “It’s the highest point. But we’ll need to be careful: it’s very high, and the oxygen levels are correspondingly low.”

But when they stepped out on to the roof…

“I dunno,” he said, “it doesn’t seem as high as it once was.”

“And I can breathe fine.” Beatrix added. “This is damned peculiar.”

On the way back down to ground level, they encountered a bemused Walker Crabtrouser…

“I tried looking out of the penthouse window.” He told them. “But the glass was too grimy to see through. Normally the glass would be sparkling and totally transparent. I’m all of a flutter.”

Meanwhile Julian had stepped on to a public stage. From a side room he heard Faati’s voice calling to him…

He expected to find her rummaging through props and costumes in a changing room of some such. What he found was the blue cable end standing on top of (what appeared to be) a nul-space power generator…

“What?” He bellowed in bafflement and frustration. “They keep a spare nul-space generator in a room behind the public performance stage? I think that highly unlikely.”

“Unless,” Faati said quietly, “it’s not a nul-space power generator at all – but actually a prop. A fake. A pretend power generator.”

Julian’s mouth fell open. “But, but, but,” he managed. “Why?”

Whilst bafflement reigned in the room behind the public performance stage, in (what Walker and Fermin assumed was) the not-so-secret UFO hangar…

…the two military operatives – or ‘Militarians’ as they were known upon Scroton – made a discovery that was almost as unexpected.

“Ugh?” Fermin ejected the pseudo-word from his powerful chest in an ascending tone that made it sound like a polysyllable. “Where’s all the flipping UFOs gone?”

Walker didn’t reply immediately: he was too busy looking for signs that there had ever been UFOs present. Scratches or gouges in the floor. Dents in the curved roof. Oil stains. Stray cigarette butts in dusty corners. He could find none.

“Dunno.” He said absentmindedly. “I’ll have to think about this.”

Fermin couldn’t stand to watch his superior officer’s face as it contorted grotesquely from the strain of putting all of their discoveries into some semblance of order in his mind. “I’ll be back in a minute: I think I hear Bertram’s puzzled tones emanating from an adjacent corridor.”

Though faulty in their operation, the soldier’s ears had, indeed heard the security chief’s voice…

“What is it, Bertram?” He cried in alarm when he found the yellow cable end hobbling along a narrow back-alley.

“I just hurt my knee.” Bertram wailed. “And the bit where the top of my leg meets my buttocks. As I stepped upon an iron grating in the floor, my foot went straight through it. Whilst extricating myself painfully from the hole, I discovered that the iron grating wasn’t metallic at all: it was three-dee printed plastic – made to look like iron. What the flip is going on, Fermin?”

The young soldier recognised this discovery as a major development. Without replying, he took to his heels in search of Walker. He found him at a fire escape door with Julian Prim…

Before he could say anything, he realised that they too had made yet another inexplicable find. The expression in their eyes told him everything he needed to know.

“This isn’t really a fire escape at all, is it?” He said. “When you opened it, you found a brick wall: right?”

“Not quite.” Julian replied. “There is no door. It’s just painted on. And whoever did it didn’t even bother painting on a push-bar!”

Whilst the ramifications of this filtered through the three cable end’s brains, Bertram had limped off into a seldom-used corridor. Cushions Smethwyke would have recognised it in a heartbeat: it was her secret access tunnel to the arboretum…

However, instead of a cheery welcome from the museum’s Artificial Intelligence, all Bertram could see on the multitudinous view screens was meaningless data and poorly discerned images of he knew not what. “Oh, I don’t like this.” He whimpered. “I don’t like it at all. I can hear squeaking noises coming from the rear of my underpants. Potentially most embarrassing. Thank goodness I’m all alone. ”

It was with great relief, five minutes later, that he made contact with Fermin, who himself, had only just met Faati…

“Look, it’s eight o’clock in the morning.” The blue cable end said – her tongue distended and lolling. “There’s a Café Puke outlet around the corner. Let’s get a drink before we collapse with dehydration.”

But, when they rounded the corner…

…they found the café entirely empty. Not a stick of furniture. No coffee machines or cup dispensers. No scuff marks on the walls where café users had pushed back their chairs to leave. No chewing gum on the skirting board. No baby snot. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Faati put a call through to Nigel on her walkie-talkie. When he received the news, he made straight for the penthouse Café Puke outlet…

He hadn’t expected to find much there, but upon entering the aforementioned establishment, best known for it’s vile coffee…

…the sheer emptiness of the beautifully decorated room stabbed him through the heart. Moreover, when Beatrix reported that there was no bucket under the sink, and that all the toilet tissue was gone, he couldn’t find the words to report back to his assistant.

“Doesn’t anything work here?” He complained. “Is this all the Museum of Future Technology is – a sham? Has it been trading upon falsehood and lies? Is that why everybody is gone – because they’ve been found out and face prosecution? Oh, I’m so crestfallen. Everything about earplugs that I’ve always believed – destroyed, torn apart, belittled. I feel such a fool.

So, it was the shadow of a world leader who, with his sad wife, descended to the ground floor…

“I wonder where this leads?” Beatrix said, only half-interested.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Beatrix may only be half-interested, but I hope you remain fully interested. Interested enough to visit again for Part 8!

PS The three-parter, mentioned in the intro,  is available to read or download in three separate PDF files right HERE.

Tooty the Chef Wallpaper: Armario Rústico

Not all that a chef requires to produce culinery masterpeices perhaps, but my rustic cupboard is a good place to start…

From left to right. Top row: flaked rice, lemon peel powder, chopped figs, couscous, italian mixed herbs, black chocolate. Bottom row: brown basmati rice, dried onion, egg noodles, brandy, pasta, white basmati rice (twice).

P.S the brandy is for medicinal purposes – making cafe cortado!

Surprise Visit (part 6): An Earplug Adventure

Well the good news for me is…I don’t need to shoot and process any more pictures for this story. They are done and dusted – all 229 of them. There, I told you it was going to be a short story, didn’t I! Well shorter, anyway. So, without further ado, welcome to part six…

It was a kind offer readily accepted. So, shortly after flying back to the Museum, Nigel stood nervously outside the disco entrance, whilst Private Fermin Gusset checked out the foyer for, trip wires, snipers, mines and suchlike…

“Looking good, not a soul in sight, Sir,” Fermin said upon his return. “The disco leads into a corridor that allows ingress to the rest of the museum. We can go straight in.”

Just to play safe, Walker Crabtrouser had Nigel remain outside with Fermin and Faati, whilst he, Julian, and Bertram made a preliminary reconnoitre ahead. “After all,” he explained to the complaining leader of Scroton, “Fermin may be the best; but he isn’t infallible.”

Beatrix, despite complaints from both her husband and Walker, joined them…

“Nice shade of pink,” she observed. “Very feminine. I think I like this place already.”

Walker cast his gaze this way and that, but found no evidence of hidden automatic machine gun ports in any of the walls. “Hmmm,” he hummed in a considered manner, “not sure I’m entirely happy with their security systems. This would be a perfect killing zone; but all walls appear to have been constructed from a near perfect plaster board  and emulsion paint from the future.”

His initial concerns satisfied, Walker then allowed Nigel into the building. Naturally he adorned himself with his blue plume of office. But as the group investigated the first main corridor beyond the disco foyer…

…puzzlement was their only companion.

“There’s absolutely no one anywhere.” Beatrix called through from a side corridor.

“Same here.” Bertram Hisscod shouted from somewhere aft of Nigel.

But Nigel wasn’t listening: he’d noticed that a pot of black paint had been dropped upon the floor. Although the pot itself was absent, the paint it contained had not been cleaned away. Moreover, when he sniffed at it, he could detect molecules of an oil-based residue. Clearly the paint was still in the act of drying. He felt sure that it was important, but he couldn’t figure out why. He made a mental note of it, and carried on… 

Walker looked back as Nigel approached him. “Notice anything odd?” He inquired of his leader.

“It’s very rough and ready.” Nigel replied as he inspected the huge timber ceiling supports. “Do you suppose it might be a new exhibit that hasn’t been finished yet?”

Walker hummed, as he often did when deep in thought. “Well something hasn’t been finished.” He said finally. “What it is, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess.”

The puzzling situation didn’t improve when they entered the Zona Azul residential area…

“Hey,” Julian Prim shouted from across the square, “there aint no furniture in these apartments. The light switches work though.”

When Nigel suggested they visit the Woven Expanse, he expected a wide, open area of brown fabric that stretched into apparent infinity. What he found was…

…a football field-sized area, followed by mound after mound of dirt that continued until it came up against a Wide Blue Yonder that was much closer than it should have been.

Walker’s voice cracked slightly when he whispered to Nigel:

“Time Storms, do you think? It would explain much of what we see here.”

Nigel didn’t want to consider the possibility that everyone in the museum had been lost so tragically. “The last time I was here,” he whispered back, “the Tunnel Temporale was disconnected from the power grid. And they’ve a PO9 2LY energy dampener in action as a failsafe. Think of something else.”

So Walker did. He thought about trying the Omnipresent Scanner…

But no one could find the ON switch, so they marked that up as another bad idea. So Walker suggested that they break up into multiple search parties. Naturally Beatrix joined her husband. But all too soon they discovered a corridor that was partially blocked by building materials…

“Let’s try another direction,” Beatrix suggested.

In response to this, Nigel whipped off his plume and shoved it in his back pocket. Then, together they turned off into a narrow curved linking corridor…

“Look at the walls, dearest.” Beatrix said as she eyed a rough, unfinished, surface.”

“Very rustic, darling.” Nigel replied. “The floor is modern though. Very smooth and almost compliant.”

Julian and Bertram were finding no such anomalies. The thoroughfare down which they strolled appeared perfectly normal…

“Maybe this section is older and better established.” Julian suggested.

The situation for Faati Rueda was much the same…

“Nice suffuse lighting.” She said to herself. “A lavatory, which works – thank the Saint of All Cable Ends: but no one to use or appreciate it.”

Nigel and Beatrix felt more comfortable, having found an established thoroughfare of their own…

Once again, it was the lack of a population that made them most uncomfortable.

“I can’t even smell any lingering aromas.” Beatrix observed. “Not a trace of a fart anywhere.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Figured it out yet? Well whether you have or have not, come back again for the next enthralling extract from Surprise Visit.

Surprise Visit (part 5) An Earplug Adventure

This story is being written during the month of July. It’s Summer, here in the UK. There really should better things to do, rather than create scenes for a silly story about earplugs. Getting an all-over tan would be nice. In fact yesterday suffered the highest temperature in the UK since records began. Nevertheless I soldier on valiantly. Can’t keep those discerning readers waiting any longer than necessary for the latest development. Photo count now reads 212 by the way. Feels like the story is getting near the end already. Won’t require the usual 400+ shots this time. But it was always going to be a short story – at least by Earplug Adventures standards. Definitely a single volume. Talking of which; let’s get on with Chapter Two…

Chapter Two

The Buggeram Bay had swept through the Galaxy at supra-light speed for several days…

…before automatic systems slowed the vessel sufficiently for those aboard to see out of the windows…

“Oh, look at that, Nige.” Beatrix said in wonderment as the ship passed by a blue giant star. “Is that Sirius?”

“No, dear,” Nigel replied, “that’s the unstable blue giant that threatens the planet known as Worstworld. It’s chucking out all sorts of nasty radiation. The population has all gone underground. Eventually it will go nova. The bang will be so big, we might just spot in from Scroton – if we screw up our eyes and stare really hard. It’s also a sign that we’re approaching the region of space that contains Earth.”

This news delighted Beatrix. She really liked earplugs, but she had never visited Earth or the Museum of Future Technology. “Oh goodie.” She said. “Are we nearly there?”

A few hours later, everyone had returned to the rudimentary ‘bridge’…

“There’s something weird going on.” Julian informed Nigel, Beatrix, and Walker. “I know this is supposed to be a surprise visit, but we can’t just waltz in unannounced; there are air-traffic protocols to follow. Strange thing is…we can’t raise anyone. No one is answering our hails. Look at the main screen: the lights appear to be on, but no one seems to be home. Worse still, the museum isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Either that or our space map is wrong. But that can’t be so; the cartographer came from Scroton!”

“What did I say?” Nigel roared with frustration. “I bloody well knew something would go doolally on this trip. There’s always someone or something causing mayhem at the Museum of Future Technology. Can you get a remote visual on their interior CCTV system?”

As head of Security, Bertram Hisscod was already on the job. “Got it.” He said…

Julian turned to Nigel. “Sir, there’s no one there. They’ve all been abducted or something. Surely we can’t continue with the vacation. At the very best, there’ll be no one to replenish the lavatory paper!”

Nigel took a few moments to think. He elected to go for some out-of-the-box thinking. “I know,” he said finally, “we’ll fly off somewhere reasonably nearby and see if we can find someone to ask.”

By chance, the former fantasist, Don Quibonki and his amiable aide, Panta Lonez, were sitting across a campfire from one another upon the dusty plain that leads to the pea-growing region…

“Isn’t this fun?” Don said to Panta.

“It certainly is, Don.” Panta replied earnestly. “And the really good thing about camping out only a hundred metres from your front door is…we can go back indoors to use the toilet.”

“Oh, absolutely.” Don concurred. “I hate roughing it. Do you recall that time – before I regained my senses – when we rode Gargantua and Tepid up into the mountains and planned to conquer the mountain kingdom of Lemon Stone?”

Panta shivered at the thought. “All that snow.” He said. “And the cold: I was always desperate for a pee. Oh-no, no more roughing it for us: we like our beds too much for that.”

Don chuckled lightly at this. He was about to say something in response, when he was interrupted by the distinctive sound of a large space vessel landing nearby. So, leaping quickly upon their plugmutts, they raced for home. It was short journey, lasting perhaps fifteen seconds. Don chose to remain aboard Gargantua, whilst Panta crept up to the vessel and peered in a side window. To say he was surprised by what he saw was an understatement…

Nigel knew there was no way that the earplug could hear him through the transparent hull section, so he signalled that he would meet the bug-eyed being outside. Shortly…

…a conversation struck up between the creatures of two totally different worlds.

“No,” Don replied to the question ‘Do you know where everyone in the museum has gone?’ “Don’t have the foggiest notion. Haven’t been there since the debacle of my intense embarrassment there years ago. You should just let yourselves in. The door into the disco is usually left unlocked. If it helps any, you can always tell them that I said it was okay to let yourself in. My name’s Don Quibonki, by the way. You’ve probably heard of me: I was once a would-be conquistador. I wrote a book about it. I think you can still get it on the Internet.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, what a mystery. Where is everyone? Tune in for the next extract, and you might find out – possibly.

P.S Does anyone remember the tale of Don Quibonki and Panta Lonez? It was called Return to the Museum of Future Technology. Should you fancy a look-see, you can click HERE for the entire e-book in PDF, to either read now or download for later.

Surprise Visit (part 4): An Earplug Adventure

The photo count is creeping up. 194 now. How many shots will it take to complete this tale? Who cares? Just enjoy it!

Below, in the central plaza, early-risers watched nervously as the ship climbed into the dark sky. One even put a word in for its occupants with his chosen deity…

Before long, the prayed-for occupants of the Buggeram Bay found themselves given a birds-eye view of Scroton Prime…

“Oh, isn’t the view splendid!” Beatrix yelled. “I’ve never seen the city lights from above before. And, oh look, we’re banking to starboard, but you’d never know it: I can’t feel a thing. I’m totally nausea-free.”

“Pitch and yaw compensators, dearest.” Nigel explained. “They iron out all the bumps.”

Shortly after that, Beatrix discovered that the ship also compensated for acceleration. Before she knew it, they had left the planet far behind…

…and the visual glory that was Weird Space greeted her gaze…

 Everyone was still in the throes of ecstasy when the long-range sensor detected an object dead ahead…

“What is it?” Nigel demanded. “Is it an asteroid? I’ve heard all about them: they cause extinction events.”

“I…I…don’t think so.” Julian Prim said hesitantly. “It appears to be vaguely sausage roll shaped.”

“I’m running it through the Strange Space Objects Recognition Computer.” Security Chief, Bertram Hisscod informed his leader. “But I think I know what it is.”

“Elucidate.” Nigel snapped.

Bertram began his explanation with a question: “Do you recall what happened on the Earplug’s Ice Planet, a few years ago?”

Nigel was no expert, but he could remember that a cold war had existed for generations upon that world, and that it had ended when the crust broke up and both sides united in a bid for racial survival.  “Not specifically.” He replied.

“Well, as the planetary crust reformed, they set up a research station at one of the poles. An alien ship crashed there – releasing a horrid shape-shifting creature that could take on the appearance of anyone and anything.”

“That sounds scary.” Beatrix said into the nanosecond Bertram took to grab a breath. “I think I would have pooped my pants. What happened?”

“They electrocuted it. In an attempt to flee, the monster changed itself into thousands of sausage rolls, and rolled away to many different locations across the ice sheet.” Bertram replied. “Some sausage rolls must have stowed away aboard robotic ice freighters, and escaped back into space. I believe that this is the daddy of all shape-shifters. This is what remains of the monster that terrorised Ice Station Nobby!”

This alarmed Nigel badly. He felt shaken to the core. “And…and…and now,” he stuttered, “it has found its way to Weird Space. Next stop: Scroton!”

“Destroy it!” Beatrix screamed shrilly. “Ram it amidships and set off our self-destruct charges if you have to; but destroy it!”

“Nah, that’s okay,” the blue, diminutive, Faati Rueda – Queen of the Pigmies, responded. “We have some defensive capability: you want me to use it? I’ll try it on five percent energy yield and see how it goes.”

Moments later…

…a searing blast of incandescent fury transformed the alien shape-shifter into widely dispersed constituent atoms.

With the exception of Nigel, everyone aboard cheered uproariously. However, all the display of firepower did for the leader of Scroton was cause him more concern…

“This is not a warship, is it?” He asked no one in particular.

Walker felt unease embrace him like a soggy duvet. “Er, no, Sir. It’s a personal luxury transport vessel – but with big guns. The cosmos is a dangerous place: it’s very important that we can kick ass from time to time.”

“But that is not what Scroton is all about.” Nigel argued. “Scrotonites don’t swagger about the Galaxy, kicking ass. We build tech stuff and sell it to worlds all over the place. Now I’m even more concerned with the fact that other eyes have seen the basic pre-production plans of this vessel. Suppose their photocopier didn’t jam: somewhere, someone else could build one of these. Maybe they already have.”

Beatrix screamed at the thought. She then added a metaphorical question: “How long has it been since the plans were lost in the back of the copier?” Of course, she answered it itself: “Too long perhaps. Maybe there is a flotilla of these killer-ships out there somewhere.”

“Oh-no,” Nigel wailed in perfect harmony with his wife, “maybe not a flotilla at all – but an entire fleet!”    

Walker Crabtrouser shook his head in negation. “No one,” he said, “no species – is capable of developing and constructing ships faster than we of Scroton. We are the acknowledged masters of R and D. Believe me when I say – there cannot possibly be any ships of this design anywhere in the entire Galaxy. This is the sole complete example.”

“Oh, do you really think so?” Beatrix, suddenly calmed, inquired.

“I do.” Walker said as he nodded solemnly and affirmatively.

“Jolly good.” Nigel managed a smile. “That means we can continue with our holiday. Julian – carry on: destination Earth.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Golly, would you believe it – that’s Chapter One complete. Now prepare yourselves for the opening salvo from Chapter Two, next time!

Surprise Visit (part 3) An Earplug Adventure

Photo count for Surprise Visit has risen to 186. You would not believe the hours I put in to get up to that number. Stiff neck and aching mouse-hand, I can tell you! Moreover, those are the completed, processed, usable shots, which can include up to ten elements in each to complete. Just guessing, but I figure it probably took at least 300 to make those 186. But enough of my creative laptop heroism and aching body parts: on with the show. The prologue is finally over, by the way. If there is such thing as an average prologue, mine is longer. I have a long one, and I”m hanging it out here for everyone to see!

Chapter One

Several hours passed before Nigel showed sufficient confidence in his new government to depart with his retinue for the space ship landing zone…

Having passed through the Departure Lounge, Beatrix lay a restraining hand upon her husband’s arm…

“Are you sure this is wise, Nige baby?” She whispered, fully aware that their bodyguard wouldn’t hear a word she said. “It’s just that when I went for my last-minute, pre-flight wee-wee, I felt a nagging doubt in my waters. Something might go horribly wrong.”

Nigel had always listened to his wife’s well-considered council. “Here, on Scroton?” He asked in a slightly more resonant whisper. “Or the vacation?”

Beatrix sighed. “Not here.” She replied. “I’m absolutely certain that Ena, Anders, and that Phruten guy are perfect for the job – after all, it was your hat their names came out of. No: it’s something about your choice of destination. Of course, if its fate that we go there, who am I to argue? But I thought I should mention it.”

So, as the others made their way towards the boarding gate…

…Nigel made a decision and reanimated…

He said; “Fear not, beautiful wife of mine: we will be on our guard against anything and everything. And, most importantly, we have Fermin Gusset at our side: what could go wrong?”

With that, they strolled out into the strange early-early morning light…

…of Scroton, whereupon Beatrix began complaining about the lack of air-conditioned transfer conduit to the space ship’s airlock. Fortunately for some unnamed underling, once they had seated themselves in the super-comfy flight chairs beside Walker Crabtrouser…

…that omission was forgotten utterly.

“Nice,” she said. “My botty has never felt so cossetted.”

“This is a new class of ship, isn’t it Walker?” Nigel inquired.

“First in the line.” Walker informed his leader. “There are four others in various stages of construction. This is the Buggeram Bay. It was named after the company that sponsored the development of the design – the Buggeram Bay Oily Fish Company. Buggeram Bay is on the southern continent, quite close to the pole, I believe.”

“That’s a little worrying, Walker.” Nigel said without turning to face the military leader. “Surely all space craft development must go through government channels?”

“Ah,” Walker responded slowly, “yes, that would be the case, normally. But the designer’s blueprints were lost in the back of the office copy machine and got all chewed up. No one wanted to take responsibility, so they just conveniently forgot all about it. The designer took his design elsewhere. Who knows who else has seen the design: but we have control of the manufacturing now, so no harm done.”

“Did they get a new photocopier?” Beatrix inquired.

“Not sure, Ma’am.” Walker replied. “Didn’t bother asking.”

Nigel’s disquiet remained. “So this is the only ship that actually flies?” He asked in a slightly nervous tone.

“Oh, assuredly.” Walker responded effortlessly. “The Plankton Regis is weeks away from completion: the Bingbonger is little more than a metallic skeleton: and the Clutterbuck is barely off the drawing board. If you have any reservations about this ship, Sir, we can always dig out the old Goosewing Grey: It still goes like the clappers, and, when you get used to it, the grey décor really isn’t as dull and depressing as you remember it.”

“I think not.” Beatrix responded upon her husband’s behalf. “When Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug were given the choice of the Goosewing Grey or the Tankerville Norris, they chose the latter unequivocally. We’ll stick with this ship: I like the seats.”

Beatrix was further impressed by the ultra-high definition main screen…

“Oh look, Nige,” she gushed, “it’s the lemon curd factory. I remember opening that. We hadn’t long been married: it was one of my first civic duties. Lovely toilets, I remember.”

Nigel didn’t much care for lemon curd. “Who’s flying this ship?” He enquired of the cable ends that appeared to be manning the controls beneath the main view screen.

“Ah, that would be no one, Sir.” Julian Prim replied. “The ship flies itself. We’re here to manually override the A I in the event that it goes bananas and tries to fly the ship into the Sun or something equally catastrophic.”

This news placated Nigel’s concerns slightly. “Oh, that’s alright then.” He said. “Okay, take us up. Let’s go.”

Moments later the Buggeram Bay lifted on invisible columns of energy…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Right then, that’s the slow bit out of the way. Now it’s time for action and mystery – on the vacation from Hell!

 

 

Surprise Visit (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

Despite the unfortunate fact that I have so far taken only one hundred and eleven photos for the next Earplug Adventure, I simply can’t hold back the flood gates of creavity any longer. My urge to entertain must be sated. It is imperative I share the opening of the latest tale with you. Ladies, Gentlemen, Things: lend me your eyes and intellect. Welcome to the first instalment of Surprise Visit…

Earplug Adventures: Surprise Visit

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Far from Earth and the Museum of Future Technology, lies a region of the Galaxy known as Weird Space…

It’s not that it possesses strange properties, malfunctioning laws of physics, or that the rules of cause and effect are skewed: it just looks weird, with both the stars and the ethereal bits and pieces between them, having unusual colouration. It’s a bit…you know…splodgy. Deep within this realm, the planet Scroton orbits its primary star…

As almost everyone is aware, the planet Scroton is ruled by a wise and trustworthy Ethernet Cable End by the name of The Golden One – or Nigel, as he prefers to be known…

Having held this position since his species was gifted intelligence and self-awareness by an ancient, beneficent alien race, Nigel was well on his way to becoming extraordinarily bored with the humdrum, day-to-day life in the prosaically named capital city of Scroton Prime…

In fact, he felt sure that should he be compelled to cross the Central Plaza to his office beside his blue assistant, Faati Rueda – Queen of the Pygmies, one more time, he would scream. Worse still, if he had to endure the quasi-military early-morning parade ever again in what remained of his corporeal lifetime…

…he wouldn’t hesitate to hand in his resignation and go live in a cave. He said as much to his Security Minister, Bertram Hisscod.

“Perhaps The Golden One should take a break from state affairs.” The yellow cable end suggested. “A few days in the desert, perhaps. Get away from all the excitement and stuff.”

Nigel had no love for the desert. He preferred desserts. He liked moist environments that didn’t make the skin on his heels crack open. Sadly, his wife, Beatrix – formerly known as Gloria – held a deep-seated aversion to wet places because they reminded her of a birth defect that had required surgery. Even now, all these years later, she could still feel the non-existent webs between her toes.

“I know,” he bellowed above the Drill Sergeant, as he instructed a group of Sea Cadets, “I’ll make an unexpected call on my old earplug chum, Magnuss Earplug, and his adorable wife, Hair-Trigger.”

Naturally, Nigel couldn’t just call his private space yacht and bugger off into the void: leadership required temporary transference. As is the way of Scrotonic government, Beatrix summoned the leading counsellors of Scroton to the committee chamber…

“Hear this, hear this, hear this,” she announced. “The Golden One wishes to announce something of great import. Lend him your ears.”

At this point Nigel entered the room…

“Guys,” he said informally, “After careful consideration, it’s been decided that Beatrix and I need a break from overseeing this fabulous planet of ours. To this end I’ve elected to go visit my pal, Magnuss Earplug. It’s a long way away, and there’s bound to be some kind of shenanigans taking place when I get there, so I’m taking a retinue with me. Nothing ostentatious, you understand: just me, the wife, Military Leader – Walker Crabtrouser, my assistant – Faati Rueda, my political attaché – Julian Prim, Head of Security – Bertram Hisscod, and a random soldier whom will be selected at…er…random. Any questions?”

It would be considered rude to question the Golden One, so every cable end present remained mute, their expressions betraying nothing of the emotional turmoil that most of them must have been feeling at that moment. This silence prompted Beatrix to take centre stage once more…

“Right then,” she said loudly, as per the rules, “now to install an interim leadership. Obviously we can’t put any old Tom, Dick, or Harry in charge of a technologically advanced society such as ours; so we’ve placed some names in a hat, and picked three of them. I call upon Ena Large, Anders Dumbell, and Phruten Vedge to make themselves known and to present themselves here within the hour.”

To the three ‘lucky’ recipients of the honour of ruling Scroton in Nigel’s absence, Ena, Anders, and Phruten, the clarion call could not have been more unexpected. Ena, a slurry-stirrer by trade, led the way towards the council chambers. She had no idea what to expect when she got there. Just behind her, Anders felt exactly the same way. He wondered what a pedicurist knew of planetary leadership; but he knew better than to question the Golden One’s choices: he was yet to choose poorly. In their wake came Phruten Vedge. Phruten, as a biker gang leader, knew exactly why he had been chosen to act as a stand-in for Nigel: the Golden One had once seen him ‘pop a wheelie’ along the promenade at a popular beach resort, and was very impressed. Nigel had particularly liked Phruten’s loud, after-market exhaust pipe too. Moreover, if he hadn’t twisted his knee recently whilst riding motocross, he would be well ahead of Ena and Anders in the race to arrive at the council chambers first…

Shortly, after having arrived to negligible fanfare, all three newcomers accepted an invitation to mount the dais…

…where they were sworn in and told that if they screwed up and did anything that upset the status quo, they would all be taken out to the swamp, and summarily fed to the slimy things that lived therein.

“So no stupid ideas, savvy?” Beatrix concluded the affair with a growl. “Don’t make waves.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Please feel free to leave charming comments concerning my creative genius: you know you want to.

Flip Me Over and Transport Me to Spain!

Anyone who frequents the excellent road system of Spain will immediately recognise this as one of those light industrial / retail areas that are found on the outskirts of most medium-sized Spanish towns…

Only they’d be completely wrong. Having taken a wrong turning in the sweltering summer-sun-drenched English coastal city of Portsmouth, I thought I’d shifted into another reality in which I still lived in Spain. Only the fact that I was driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road brought me to my senses. This is how it actually looked…

Yes, I flipped the picture. Boo, I really love driving in Spain: I feel so relaxed there!

Making Art Out of Doo-Dahs and Thingamabobs: The Cafe Puke

The Cafe Puke has been mentioned many times during the saga that is the Earplug Adventures. Sometimes, during a tale, we might catch a glimpse of the interior of that most reviled emporium of the coffee bean, but never have we really been INSIDE an average Cafe Puke franchised outlet. Well that situation has been put to rights; and it all happened because I didn’t take enough shopping bags to Sainsburys. I shall explain. Quickly realising that I wouldn’t be able to pack all my goods into the solitary bag that nestled daintily in the bottom of my trolley, I took the display box in which the yoghurts I wanted  lay. The cashier didn’t mind, so a half-hour later this sat upon the kitchen table, which doubles as my writing desk…

Immediately I saw the possibilties. Ideas began fermenting in my aging brain. Quite a while later, and following lots of trips to the attic and shed, this was the result…

Want to look inside? Go ahead…

Look, it even has an air conditioning unit! Obviously that is why – when word got around the earplug world – it became populated very quickly..

Why, isn’t that Nigel, the King of Scroton, ordering for his wife Beatrix, Magnuss, and Hair-Trigger? Hob-nobbing or what? It can’t be the coffee that draws them in: it must be the decor!

And the late opening hours…

 

Nature Wallpaper: Sharing

Before I share my ‘Sharing’ wallpaper with you, please allow me to share the following image with you…

I suffer for my art, you know. Despite the fields and paths of rural England appearing benificent, don’t be fooled. For all the waving grasses and spirited swathes of clover, there are always brambles laying in wait amongst them for unwary picture-snappers like me. Bastards.

So, anyway, on to the subject of this post. I put this picture up on my Flickr page. In the first 36 hours it received about a hundred hits and a couple of ‘faves’.  Then, whilst I slept blissfuly, trying to ignore my itching shins, the picture went ape-shit. By the time I posted this version of the picture here, the original had already gained over 3700 hits and a hundred ‘faves’. Someone likes it. I hope you do. It is quite nice…

 

Tooty the Chef and the United Nations Trifle

Coloured blancmange was becoming increasingly difficult to find in the highstreet shops of the dear old U.K. Sick to death of yellow custard in his trifles, Tooty the Chef embarked upon a mission to find an alternative, by shopping in lesser emporiums that featured ‘stuff’ from all over the planet. Stuff such as this…

Mango jelly and pandan custard. Yellow and green. Pakistani and Thai. Perfect. When he informed Number One Son, Number One Son responded with:

“Make it now! Make it now!

But there was a problem: no canned fruit in the house. How could the hatted one have become so lax? But fear not; there were a couple of apples in the crisper…

From France and South Africa respectively. Oh, how international. So, without further ado, he set to boiling them down a bit. Once cooled, he added the mango jelly and some UK sourced sponge fingers, and placed it into the fridge…

Sadly the pandan custard, although arriving in a large satchet, created very little green custard. Just enough, barely, to cover the apple/jelly/ sponge fingers combo…

“Shit, arse, and bollocks!” the great chef was heard to utter beneath his breath and from behind his greying beard. This called for emergency action. And what action it was. He found this in the back of the wall cupboard…

Crema Catalana – from Spain! It was out-of-date, but he didn’t let that small fact worry him. “They have to put dates on stuff,” he assured anyone within hearing range, “they have to by law. It doesn’t mean anything – unless it’s chicken, of course.” Moments later…

…it was blubbing nicely on the stove. But when added to the trifle…

…still came up short. Why are these portions so darned small? So, once more he delved into the larder – discovering, in the process…

…a satchet of butterscotch flavoured Angel Delight. Not, perhaps the obvious topping for a trifle; but the Dream Topping that he swore lived behind the Waitrose breadcrumbs and Sainsbury’s boil-in-the-bag Basmati rice, had fled the scene. The result…

The surface of a planetoid from an Earplug Adventure. But when dished up…

…it was. to quote the formerly-mentioned Number One Son, “The best yet.”

Tooty Triumphs once again!

Scroton News Report: No Coffee At The Cafe Puke!

Scroton’s first (and only) leader – Nigel, the Golden One – has discovered the penthouse Cafe Puke outlet in the Museum of Future Technology abandoned utterly…

“There wasn’t even one of those satchets that you add boiling water to left.” Nigel was heard to complain. “Or a bucket under the sink. Even the tables were gone. It’s as if everyone fled, and took everything with them… Yes – including the toilet tissue!”

 

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.