Category Archives: Tooty Stuff

Gastronomic Desperation, with Tooty the Chef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An extract from Silent Apocalypse…

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

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

“Will you stop that?” He snapped.

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

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

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

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

“Any chance of action tonight, Corp?”

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

“Both.”

“No – and yes – in that order.”

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

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

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

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

Katherine heard these words, and shuddered.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

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

Don’t Miss Out!

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

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

A Village Trapped in Amber?

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

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

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

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

Here’s an establishing shot during the titles…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a scene from inside the building…

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tooty the Chef’s Rubbery Custard Surprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprise Package

Regardez vous the montage below…

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

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

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

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

 

My Four-Fendered Friend

Okay, I took the title from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but that’s how I feel my ‘modern classic’ Toyota Corolla treats me. Yet again – for the  eighth time in a row – it has passed its annual safety and emissions test, known in Britain as the (dreaded) MOT. Guess it was a “thank you” for all the money I spent on it during the past year. Or maybe it enjoys sitting on the hardstanding beside it’s cousin – the Yamaha XJR1300 – another ‘modern classic’. Yamaha make many of Toyota’s engines you know: maybe their hearts came from the same factory.  Happy Nipponese buddies, watching the world go by through my car port opening…

Tooty the Chef and the Near Linguine Cheese Disaster

Tooty the Chef had been talked into attempting his late wife’s signature Spaghetti Cheese. Despite a talent that transcends gastronomy, he had his doubts – especially when he discovered that the larder contained insufficient quantities of Italy’s finest export (not counting Asti Spumante of course). So he went with Linguine instead. I mean, why not: it’s all bloody pasta, isn’t it? After boiling it for the required period of time, he drained the sloppy result and went looking for his world-famous Roasting Thing. But, oh curses; something inexplicable had happened to his world-famous Roasting Thing. A corner had fallen off!

What a to-do. And what was he to do? His other Roasting Thing was too small and oval shaped. No good at all. Then his late wife came to the rescue. The thought entered his head that he should look on the bottom shelf – right at the back – of the kitchen corner unit; a place that is best known for chill winds and stygian darkness. And there he found it: a new, never-been-used Roasting Thing. So he mixed the linguine with some chopped tomatoes, passata, tomato paste, garlic paste, grated cheddar, grated mozzarella, black pepper, spaghettata al limone, and peas. The gooey result was then hurled into the middle shelf of a maxxed-out oven for twenty-five minutes…

Yippie – spaghetti cheese – just the way his children’s mother used to make it…

…except for the linguine – so it wasn’t quite the same. But it was similar. Another success for the floppy-buttocked burk!

Pig Sick and Thinking of Spain

If you are a long-term reader of this illustrious blog, you’ll know that I have a long lasting affection for Spain. As I watched the three-day build up to the 2022 Spanish MotoGP – with the first mass crowd in evidence since the original Covid 19 lockdown in 2020 – I could almost feel the heat of the sun as it beat down upon the spectators from a perfect blue Spring sky above Jerez. I could smell the jasmine, scorched soil, drains, and petrol fumes. As the meeting progressed, more and more I wanted to be there. But I didn’t let it effect me: I was at home, with my family, and that was that. Then, as the meeting came to a close, a camera panned around to the motorcycle park – zooming in on a portion of it. The air sloughed from  my lungs and my shoulders slumped. But not before I’d freeze-framed the playback. This is what I’d seen…

I went to bed – totally pissed-off.

Tooty the Chef’s Tips on Presentation.

Here’s a very simple tip to follow from Tooty the Chef…

It really doesn’t matter how you slap the grub on the plate: just make sure that the cutlery matches the accompanying drink. Or vice versa. The guests / recipients will be so impressed that no one will notice the food…

Hoi Sin stir fry, by the way. Tasty.

Tooty Gets His Nuts Out

There are two Robins that vie for supremacy in my garden. A rather neat and spic and span fellow (Loser) and a somewhat bedraggled example (Winner). Every morning, when I go out into the garden to refill the bird feeder (my late wife did it religiously, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint her), Winner arrives immediately; gets in my way; and generally demands breakfast, which I’m always glad to supply. But he does have to work for it. Here he is, waiting on the bird table…

Having set up the camera to capture the moment, today I went into the shed to fetch some nuts for him. Winner – the  undoubted ‘top dog’ Robin in the local area – became impatient, and immediately hopped aboard the handy perch…

…and proceeded to watch my every move. Flitting over to the fence…

…he awaited my outstretched hand, which he knew was full of nuts. And, as usual, he flitted back; checked me out…

…hovered for a moment; snatched a nut; then scooted for the sanctuary of the tree…

This is his modus operandi. He touches down for a nanosecond, then puts as much distance between himself and I as he can – usually disappearing into an adjoining garden to devour his catch. He’ll do it as many times as I’m prepared to stand there, like a lemon, with an aching arm stretched out in front of me…

But I know that when he’s off over the fence, Loser grabs his opportunity with both feet. There he is, look – watching over my shoulder…

This is when he slips in unnoticed. More often than not he may get chased off by Winner, but when I feel his little talons grip my fingernails…

…for me he’s the real winner. After all he gets the time to select the best nut in my hand. And if he’s feeling choosey, he might even take a meal worm. Yum!

Throw Something Together Quick with Tooty the Chef

If you’re anything like Tooty (unlikely, but there must be one or two) you too will be the forgetful sort who arses about doing inconsequential stuff when you should be preparing that meal you so hate cooking – but have to because no one else will. Well, guess what, that happened to Tooty, only today. There he was, thoroughly enjoying himself, doing something that didn’t need doing, when the clock chimed – to remind him that time was of the essence. Something needed cooking, and it needed cooking now. Enter Tooty the Chef…

No time for planning: action was needed. And action it got – whatever ‘it’ was. Straight out of the fridge, an onion was rapidly diced…

This was quickly followed by some breakneck carrot shaving…

and dicing into quite large lumps. As were some sweet potatoes…

Already an idea had burst with incandescence from the fertile mind of the aging gastronome..,.

Pork fillet and pre-made puff pastry. Tooty the Chef was gonna make a pie sort of thing. So it was time to trim off the nasty fatty bits of the pork fillet…

…and cut it into slices…

…which, in turn, were reduced to lumps approximately twice the size of the sweet potato chunks…

…coz everyone knows that meat cooks waaaay quicker than sturdy root vegetables.

Next up, the pastry invited an assault of the rolling pin kind…

Sadly this meant that Tooty the Chef had to re-injure his problematic shoulder by reaching high into the wall cupboard for some flour…

…which resulted in unprintable expletives that might have included, “Bum”, “Arse”, and “Deary me, that did hurt so, I don’t know what to do.”

But, naturally, he quickly overcame the agony, and before you could say: “Forget it bladder: I’m not going to the toilet until this job is finished”, his quicksilver fingers were rolling out the pastry…

Then a thought struck. It was a fundamental sort of thought. It went: “Ugh, whatta my gonna cook this in?” Time to go searching the cooking crockery cupboard that his late wife kept so well stocked, and which he is yet to clear out…

Please note fabulous yellow trousers. From this angle, I bet you’re glad he no longer cooks sans ligerie. Well there were quite a few bowls and stuff that were microwave and dishwasher-proof. But only one that was oven-proof. Like it or not, all the ingredients would have to fit inside it. Using the bowl as a template, Tooty the Chef cut two circles of pastry… 

One, he placed in the bottom of the bowl…

After all, he did describe this as a ‘pie sort of thing’, not actually a pie.

A decision was then required. What spices to add to the ingredients? Hmmm, tricky. So he tried pot luck and selected some Spanish stuff intended for chimichurri… 

…which he mixed in with the onion, sweet potato, carrot, and pork. He then rammed the whole lot into the bowl…,

…and laid the second circle of pastry on top – whilst using the left-overs to seal the edge and create a wonderful central decoration that wouldn’t have disgraced Leonardo Di Vinci…

Here it is in a moodier light…

The speckles in the pastry are some of the spices that stuck to his hands. He didn’t wash them off before applying the top: he doesn’t approve of waste. Naturally the bowl was eased into a pre-warmed (and maxxed-out) oven, for (he estimated) fifty-five minutes…

Fifty-five minutes later…

Yum, or what! A drop of beef gravy, and voila...

See, cooking aint so bad. It doesn’t have to take hours. Give it a go. Let your imagination loose. Take a chance with the ingredients. The result will always be palatable to someone – even if it’s only the dog. He hates to admit it, but Tooty the Chef has found that cooking can almost be rewarding.

Timeless Tooty

Some things never change. Human behaviour, for one. But we don’t want to go down that serious philosophical avenue right now: let’s stick to a far more cheerful subject. Please regard this hideously faded photo of Tooty (before he became Tooty) in 1976…

As you can probably see, he was a cheerful and lovable chap. Well his mum loved him, and, at that time, so did this delightful young woman…

Also as you can probably see, he was a motorcyclist. Protective equipment amounted  to motocross boots, a crash helmet, and gloves. Back then, when very few people considered health and safety, body protection was provided by a pair of flared cotton trousers and a small corduroy jacket.  Note the corduroy jacket appears festooned with sew-on patches. Here it is again, later in the year…

It has grown a few more. And again in 1977…

…where even more appear evident. Because of the extraordinarily piss-poor resolution of the ancient print, it is doubtful that you can  recognise any wording or logos that appears on the plethora of patches. Well let me tell you (if you haven’t guessed already) most of them read ‘Yamaha’.  He was, at that time, The Yamaha Kid. He doesn’t know when, or whence, that jacket disappeared, but he really misses it and has cursed his carelessness on a regular basis for the last few decades. When he returned to motorcycling in 2020, his son suggested that they find a modern equivalent jacket, then do likewise with the patches. Tooty decided against it on safety grounds. If he had ever crashed with that jacket on, it is pretty odds-on that he would have come away with somewhat less skin than if he’d remained perpendicular to the asphalt. So he decided against it. In any case, a sixty-three year old version of The Yamaha Kid would look a tad pathetic, wouldn’t he?  BUT he WAS able to find exact duplicates of many of those 1970’s patches on the Internet. In fact one of them was an original. Prices were too high for most of them, so he passed. What was the point of purchasing expensive patches for a jacket that he wasn’t going to buy or wear? But one was an affordable price, and the orignal patch was an absolute  giveaway. These he simply couldn’t resist. Then his son found an exact copy of the U.S AIRFORCE patch that he had worn above the left breast pocket – and duly bought it for him. Well, the other day, the temptation to sew them on to something overwhelmed him; so he took out his Spanish fisherman’s jacket (that he paid too much for in a Villa Joyosa market a few years ago) and set to it with the needle and thread. Ladies and Gentlemen: in a subdued manner that should not embarrass the old fool too much – The Yamaha Kid returns…

But he doesn’t ride his bike in that gear: he’s not a complete moron. Pity the camera strap had to hide the original 1970’s patch though. Stupid Tooty!

I Won’t Grow Old Gracefully! Do You Hear me? I Refuse!

In 1985 my wife and I needed a joint temporary passport. I don’t remember why, but we did. Now, generally speaking, passport photos make the passport holder look like either a startled hare; a somnolent zombie; or the ugliest bastard in town. Not so we two, I feel…

I think I might have passed for the drummer in a Californian soft rock band; and she would have been our lead singer, no question.  But the years that followed had the same entropic effect upon me as it did everyone else. Eventually it became so bad that I felt compelled to post my first Tooty’s Fashion For Fogeys on this very site. In that opening salvo I displayed an uncanny ability to wear beige without appearing a doddery old fool who watches re-runs of Judge Judy, but doesn’t realise they’re re-runs and has to get up and go to the toilet every commercial break…

…even if I really do. By and large, I think I almost pulled off a perfect deception. Particularly when I added this sort of thing…

…in later blogs.

But, just thirteen months after posting the original T F for F, my son noted the clothes I’d put on in order to walk the dogs. They included those self-same beige trousers; an olive green jacket; and a pair of brown walking shoes. He said:

“You’re looking very…beige…today. Are you on your way out to buy a grey flat cap so that you can complete the uniform and look like an old fogey?”

I checked the mirror. A look of horror stared back at me. Without hesitation I proceeded to a local haberdashery, where I purchased an over-priced tub of colour dye. It accompanied the trousers into the washing machine…

And, several hours later, I’d shed that look of antiquity entirely. Well not entirely, perhaps: but at least I didn’t look like I had a Hyundai i10 or a Kia Picanto in the car port…

And look, matching socks…

And now, judging from the undoubted inelegance I display in this photo, you can see why my wife was the international dancer; and I spent the 1970s pissing about and freezing my bollocks off on motorbikes…

Note the bike: a Yamaha – naturally. Ostend, Belgium, December 1978. So cold that the butane in the gas heater froze and the damned thing exploded. Now that’s something you wouldn’t catch me doing at my age! Talking of which: check out this hair and beard from 1988…

Oh God, I’m so depressed! Where’s that Californian soft rock band when you most need them?

Blast From the Past 2: The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

Sifting through some more floppy discs that I found in my loft…

Tooty and his harvest of stuff

…I discovered three scripts that I had forgotten entirely. Blanked from my memory, no doubt. This is because (when I began reading the opening lines) it all came flooding back. It was this proposed children’s animation that was the final straw that broke the metaphorical camel’s back. I now recall the boss of a leading children’s animation TV series provider liking it very much, but who couldn’t see how it would fit into a saturated market (at that time), what with Thomas the Tank Engine  and Bob the Builder etc already well-ensconced. He also doubted that I could create enough story-lines for an entire series. He might or might not have been correct about the former; but, as I was to prove very quickly, he was absolutely on-the-money  with the latter. I managed  three episodes…and dried up. I had nothing. This (rather than the failure to sell my adult stuff) is what prompted me to finally give up. But, looking back at it now, almost twenty years later, it wasn’t half-bad. Check out this portion. Skidlid is the driver of a Swedish-built truck named Woden. Scooter is a truck-mountable forklift truck that rides on the rear of Woden. Farquar is a regular electric counter-balanced forklift truck  at the factory for  which they deliver ‘widgets’. Danny drives Farquar; and Binky works in the office.

As previously encountered, the formatting from Windows 95 means that the copy is slightly all-over-the-place…

            SKIDLID & SCOOTER by Paul Nolan

                                    EPISODE 01: WEATHER FOR DUCKS

            1: EXT. DAY. LOGAN’S YARD.

WODEN is reversing across the yard into the loading bay of LOGANS PRESSED WIDGET COMPANY. 

Although his ‘bleeper’ is sounding loudly, SCOOTER, who is still mounted on Woden’s rear, calls out a warning…

                                                            SCOOTER:

Mind yourselves. Mind yourselves. Woden is coming in.

            WODEN: (Swedish accent)

Thankyou, Scooter, but everyone can hear my reversing beeper. You don’t need to worry.

           

            2: INT. DAY. LOADING BAY.

Woden halts. SKIDLID, drops from the cab, then reaches back inside to retrieve his safety helmet – placing it upon his head.

FARQUAR, driven by DANNY, enters from the warehouse, and approaches the lorry.

                                                                        SKIDLID: (calling to Danny)

                                                            Hey, hey!

            Skidlid indicates his own helmet.

                                                                        SKIDLID:

Come on Danny, you know the rules: You must wear a helmet when driving a forklift truck.

            DANNY:

Sorry, Skidlid. I forgot.

            Danny reaches back to fetch his helmet from the rear of Farquar.    

            SKIDLID:

You always forget. One of these day’s you’ll forget your head. Now what have you got for Woden to deliver today?    

              FARQUAR:

He doesn’t know. It’s too early; he hasn’t woken up yet.

                                                                      DANNY:

                                    That’s right. It’s too early; I haven’t woken up yet.

            Mister Logan hasn’t given me the delivery sheets yet, either…

                        SKIDLID:

Fair enough.

                        Skidlid and Danny make for the office

                        FARQUAR: (to Scooter)

Hello, Scooter.

                        SCOOTER: (defensively)

Hello, Farquar.

                        FARQUAR:

Aren’t you coming down off of there?

                        SCOOTER: (calling)

Skidlid?

                        SKIDLID:

Yes, Scooter?

                        SCOOTER:

Is it all right if I come down off of here?

                        SKIDLID:

No, it’s all right. You best stay there. We won’t be long.

                        Skidlid and Danny disappear inside the office.

                        FARQUAR:

Do you feel slightly superfluous – hanging around like that – like a metal monkey?

                        SCOOTER:

I don’t know. What does ‘superfluous’ mean?

                        FARQUAR:

It means something that isn’t really needed.  Something extra that we could all do without.

                                                                        SCOOTER:

That’s not a very nice thing to say. Of course I’m needed. Skidlid often uses me.

                        FARQUAR:

When?

                        SCOOTER:

Well, when we go places where there’s no forklift trucks around.

                        FARQUAR:

You mean forklift trucks – like me?

                        SCOOTER:

Of course.

                        FARQUAR:

But if there are forklift trucks like me around, he leaves you hanging onto the back of Woden – like a metal monkey?                      

                        SCOOTER:

Well…yes, I suppose so…

                        FARQUAR:

I thought so.

Skidlid and Danny return with BINKY – who carries a sheaf of paperwork.

She hands them to Skidlid one at a time.

                                                BINKY:

Your first call is at the new bridge. They need a widget cruncher. Their widget cruncher broke down.

                        SKIDLID:

Thanks, Binky: We’ll get straight over there. Come on Danny – load us up.           

 

3: EXT. DAY. LOGANS YARD.

Danny uses Farquar to place a huge, heavy box onto the rear of Woden – who sags under the weight.

                                                WODEN:

Are you trying to burst my tyres, Farquar? This is very heavy.

            FARQUAR:

Too heavy for Scooter, I think. Perhaps you should leave him behind. He will only slow you down.

            WODEN:

No, I do not think so. Where I go, Scooter goes.

He is a very useful forklift truck.

            DANNY: (calling)

O.K, Skidlid, all done: Off you go.

Woden pulls from the yard. Danny and Binky wave their farewell.

                                                                        DANNY:

                                                            Fancy a cup of tea, Binky?

                                                                        BINKY:

                                                            Good idea.

They depart. Farquar looks up at the darkening sky. The first raindrops to fall hit him.

                                                FARQUAR: (calling)

                                    I say, don’t forget me!

                        FADE OUT.

                        FADE IN.

 

                        4: EXT. DAY. WODEN.

Scooter is becoming drenched by rain as Woden drives through the countryside. He is not enjoying it.

They pass a holiday camp, full of caravans.

                                                            SCOOTER:

Oh, those poor people. What horrid weather for a holiday.

 

5: EXT. DAY. RIVERSIDE ROAD.

Woden drives along beside the river – which is rising in the pouring rain.

                                                            SCOOTER:

                                                That river looks awfully high.

                                                            WODEN:

It is all this rain. It is making the river rise so high I think it may flood.

            SCOOTER:

That sounds like fun.

            WODEN:

Not if you live near the river, and the river fills your home with water.

            SCOOTER:

Oh, no, I suppose not.

 

                        6: EXT. DAY. UNFINISHED BRIDGE.

Several workmen and a large diesel forklift truck shelter from the rain beneath a canvas hut beside a partially built steel bridge.

                        Woden arrives. Skidlid drops from the cab.

                                                                               SKIDLID:

Hello, I’ve just brought your new widget cruncher.

            WORKMAN:

Lovely. Just drop it there, will you?

It’s weather for ducks out there, and we don’t want to get wet.

            SKIDLID:

Do I have to take it off myself?

            WORKMAN:

Very kind of you to offer. Just there will do.

            SKIDLID:

But the load is very heavy…

            SCOOTER: (interrupting)

I can do it, Skidlid. That’s why you brought me along.

            SKIDLID:

But they have a much larger forklift truck here already…

            SCOOTER:

Please, Skidlid; I don’t want to be superfluous…

            SKIDLID:

But it’s really heavy. I don’t think…

            SCOOTER: (interrupting)

Please…

            SKIDLID:

O.K, Scooter, you can give it a try.

                                   Woden begins lowering Scooter to the ground.

 

                                           7: EXT. DAY. UNFINISHED BRIDGE.

With Skidlid driving, Scooter approaches the heavy load on the rear of Woden.

                                                                                    WODEN:

Are you sure you want to do this, Scooter?

            SCOOTER:

Yes. The load only looks heavy. I’m sure Farquar made it look much harder than it really is.

Scooter strains to lift the load. He huffs and puffs. The load begins to rise, but his rear wheel will not remain upon the ground. It begins to spin as he tries to reverse.

The workmen rush from shelter, clambering upon Scooter – bringing his wheel back down.

                                                SKIDLID:

No, no – it isn’t safe. Everyone off. This load is too heavy for this machine.

The workmen retreat to cover, and Skidlid lowers the load back onto Woden.

                                                WODEN:

                                    Well it was nice while it lasted.

                                                SCOOTER: (sadly)

Farquar was right: I am superfluous. No one has any need of me. You might as well throw me into the river.

            SKIDLID:

Oh, no, Scooter, you’re not superfluous: It’s just that truck-mounted forklift trucks aren’t made to lift huge widget crunchers. It needs big counter-balanced forklifts like…

            SCOOTER:

…Farquar?

                                                SKIDLID:

Well, yes – like Farquar. But Farquar would be no good on the back of Woden, would he? He would be too big. We’re all good at different things. There are times when you are very handy. Just not right now.

                        THE WORKMEN CRY OUT AN ALARM.

Skidlid notices that they are pointing to the river- upon which a caravan bobs in the current.         

A family can be seen waving for help from the roof.                       

                                                                                    SKIDLID:

Oh, cripes, that mobile home is being swept away!

            WORKMAN:

What are we going to do? If it hits the bridge, it’ll be torn apart!

            SKIDLID:

Your big fork-lift truck: Perhaps it could go down to the bank – reach across – and stop the mobile home before it hits the bridge.

            WORKMAN:

Good idea.

(Calling Diesel)

Diesel!

The diesel forklift truck roars into life – smoke billowing from its exhaust.

 

8: EXT. DAY. RIVERBANK.

The Workman eases the diesel forklift truck down the bank toward the fast-moving water.

Skidlid calls from the bridge…

                                                            SKIDLID:

Hurry – the mobile home is getting closer.

            WORKMAN:

I can’t; it’s the mud: It’s too soft. My wheels are sinking. I can’t go backwards or forwards.

 

                        9: EXT. DAY. UNFINISHED BRIDGE.

                        Woden and Scooter look-on…

                                                                                    WODEN:

Things do not seem to be going well, Scooter.

            SCOOTER:

That poor family; they’ll be here in just a few minutes. They’ll be dashed into the raging river.

            WODEN:

Perhaps they are Olympic swimmers, and can swim easily to the bank.

            SCOOTER:

What are the chances of that, Woden?

            WODEN:

About a million-to-one.

          SCOOTER:

That’s what I thought.

(Calling)

Skidlid – fetch out Woden’s towrope. Do it quickly!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2003

Hmmm, wonder if this could be persuaded to morph into a children’s book…? Whatta ya think?

 

 

There is Always an Arsehole

It doesn’t seem to matter where you live, there always seems to be at least one arsehole in the vicinity. During 2021 the village in which I live decided on a ‘Greening’ campaign. Wild flower seeds were distributed to every household, with the intention that it’s occupants would plant them, and the gardens,  streets, paths, and byways would blossom forth with native flora. It was a success, and everyone was very pleased about it. Fast forward to 2022…

…and some fucking dip-shit decides to poison the public footpaths that pass beside his rented field…

…killing off every one of the wild flowers that bloomed there.  That, in itself, would label him as shit-head of the month; but the over-spray has also poisoned the grazing grass on the other side of the fence. I find it less than coincidential that his sheep are notable by their absense. I just hope it’s costing shit-for-brains a fortune in vets bills!

Eight Years On

As I mentioned in my Tooty the Chef’s wheel restoration post, I bought my ‘modern classic’ 1998 Toyota Corolla, in immaculate condition in 2014. It was done on the spur of the moment, and I’ve never regretted the impetuous act. Here’s what the little beauty looked like back then…

Well, as I said earlier, the years have not been kind to my dinky 1.3 automatic. But recently a new air filter, an automatic gearbox oil change, and those dashing yellow wheels seem to have perked up the motor somewhat. So, to celebrate the fact that my favourite car is still up and running after twenty-four years, I stopped by the same locale and took it’s portrait again…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I know: but I think it’s still a cracker. I think a lot of old Corolla owners feel the same way: there’s still loads of them on Britain’s roads, and every one of ’em I spot makes me smile. You’re bound to find at least one in Waitrose car park. Quality lasts, obviously. And if you’ve never driven one, give it a go: there’s something indefinable about them. If you haven’t guessed, I’m a big fan.

Forcing the Grey Matter to Activate

Sometimes, when I’m bereft of fresh ideas for an Earplug Adventure, I utilise a little-known technique for forcing the issue called writer’s block. I visualise a location or scene. Then, having done so, I take one aspect of that location or scene, and create a title for the story that is yet to exist. I did it with The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah, and I’m doing it again. It was this picture that delivered the impetus to create…

It’s the Ethernet Cable End’s mud village from Plunging into Peril. I  thought: “Hang on, I’ve got loads of those cardboard inserts in the ‘studio’: better check ’em out.” And I did too…

Having done so, the title came to me. The Epoch of Dung. Sounds great. It’ll look great on the cover too.

So there it is: the next Earplug Adventure. I wonder what it’ll be like. Time travel, I wouldn’t be surprised.

What is Getting My Earplugs So Excited?

With the Earplug Adventure: Triple Threat now just a distant memory, something is causing the silicon populace of my attic to become even more animated than normal…

The clue to it’s identity comes from those coloured objects that appear to have the nearest earplugs in their thrall. Yes, it’s time to prepare for another adventure…

…which means sprucing up the make-up, and smoothing out the age-lines. Golly, the Supreme Being has his work cut out for him…

…Some of these earplugs are eight years old! But, be assured, they’ll be fighting fit and looking their best when the camera next rolls. All that’s needed is a script. Thinking cap on. Getting those little grey cells agitated is the key. What could the scenario be for the next tale? Surely the possibilities are endless. Any suggestions?

Tooty the Chef Gets Auto-Restorational

Everyone knows Tooty the Chef…

…and his inspirational recipes for people who don’t really want to cook, but have to…

Well, back in 2014 he happened upon a low-milage Toyota Corolla for sale at the side of the road. His wife drove one, and he liked it so much that he didn’t hesitate to buy it…

But the passage of time was not kind to his pride and joy.  Five years of daily commuting and weekends away, plus three years of dissuse on the hard standing, took their toll upon the sadly fading and peeling paintwork. Deciding to give it a visual ‘once over’ Tooty tore off the wheel trims and was appalled by the condition of the rusting wheels…

Things weren’t much better in the wheel arches either…

And the sight of the crud-encrusted suspension and brake fittings really ‘shat him up’…

So a major clean-up was undertaken with alacrity…

Now all thoughts of the day’s food preparation had been dismissed as inconsequential. Tooty the Chef had become Tooty the Auto Restorer – despite the fact that he knows sod-all about mechanicking, and usually pays other people to get their mits dirty. But, coming over all ‘Wheeler Dealer’, he pulled off the wheels and began cleaning off the dirt and rust…

But he was quickly thwarted when water became trapped in the micron-thin gap between the surfaces of the rim and hub of his pressed steel wheels. Fortunately our favourite chopping board champ is also an improvising kinda guy, and before long he’d dug out a paint-stripping heat gun that hadn’t seen use since the mid-nineteen nineties…

Naturally it worked fabulously. How could it not? But after Tooty had applied a coat of rust conversion liquid…

…that same micron-thin gap came back to haunt him, and those improvisational skills were required again…

Yes, he set-to  with a propane blow torch. And it was so successful that Tooty simply had to make a celebratory corned beef and maasdam cheese toasted sandwich..

So, as the last day of March 2022 came to a close, all five wheels now bore a coat of red oxide primer…

And very nice they looked too. But as the first day of April dawned, Tooty knew that a plan that had been festering in his head for hours would require action. He decided to go with a Spanish theme for the wheel resto. So, as a cold north-easterly blasted through his workplace with the gusto of a ravaging  hoarde of Viking warriors, Tooty masked off the tyres  and pulled out his rattle-can of bright yellow paint…

Despite the icey blast playing havoc with his aging bladder, the wielder of the spatula soon had his tatty wheels all spruced up and looking dandy…

…even if he, himself was feeling far from dandy. Knackered would be more accurate. But, as he touched up a few areas that appeared slightly less than perfection itself…

…rain, sleet, and a flurry of snow intervened…

But, being a hardy sort, a quick cup of coffee was partaken, and he was soon back on the case. And, oh my,  what a result…

Fortunately a delivery van arrived, on cue,  with a set of wheel trims that Tooty had ordered on-line. A quick and timely service soon softened the garish wheels…

…leaving Tooty so pleased with himself that he made a delicious  chicken curry…

…that was really nice. Gosh, what a multi-talented individual he is. And such good automotive taste too!

Wattpad Ditched

After weeks of relentless uploading, and half-way through this fairly wondrous tale…

…I said, “Tooty, you only have one reader: why are you bothering?”

So I quit. That was a lot of effort for no gain – spiritual or otherwise. And some of the writing on Wattpad is utterly execrable. Makes the Earplug Adventures look like Shakespeare. Phew, glad to be free of that lot. Still, it was an experience to discover that all the awful things people say about Wattpad are true. Where next, I wonder? Any ideas, anyone?

Everyday Objects Make Excellent Science-Fiction Wallpapers

My ancient Sony Cybershot DSC-P10 dates from 2002. I don’t use it much, but I think it had a hard life in the hands of a construction site engineer before I liberated it. As a consequence it can misbehave slightly – like not switching on when I want to use it. On this occasion I thought it likely that the battery might not be carrying  enough charge to fire it up, so I plugged the camera into the charger and tried again. It worked. By chance the lens happened to be pointing in the direction of a half-full water bottle. So, to test that all was well, I snapped a few point-blank close-ups. When I saw the resulting pictures, the ‘artistic genius’ (weird sci-fi guy) within me saw the possibilities. So I tossed a new (and exciting) smoke alarm on to the bed and snapped some pictures of that. The result is…

What the two saucers are about to do to the domed city upon an airless planet, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they appear in a future Earplug Adventure!

A Strange Philosophical Juxtaposition

Whilst walking through a local churchyard recently, I chanced upon this scene…

How the dice got there, I have no idea. It has been pretty windy lately, so it might have blown in from an adjacent garden. But, whatever, the significance struck me immediately. Every day we roll the dice. Life, after all, is a gamble. Nothing is certain – except for one thing. Ultimately, in the end, when the big screen of existence reads ‘Game Over’, we’re all winners. For having lived at all; for having become the person we are; and for moving on to something better.